Feb. 28, 2017 by Robert Glicksman

Congress Wants Land Agency to Ignore the Facts and Future

Imagine you come across a colleague sitting at his desk amid piles of yellowed papers. When you ask what he is working on, he says it's his annual family budget. "What's with all the old papers?" you might ask. "Oh," he replies, "I always work my new budget off my receipts and bills from 1983, the year we married. Some of them are getting pretty hard to read." "Don't you keep updated records?" you might ask. "And haven't your family finances changed significantly over the last 34 years? I know one of your kids is going to college this fall. You've bought a new house, and you and your wife have switched jobs since then." "Well, yes," your colleague says, "but 1983 is the baseline for us." 

No reasonable person would plan a budget this way. Yet it is exactly the approach Republicans in Congress are trying to foist on the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management in their latest effort to wipe away as many Obama-era regulations as possible. 

BLM manages over 245 million acres of our public lands, and effective land management requires careful planning that adjusts to changing conditions. Late last …

Feb. 28, 2017 by David Flores

This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun.

Last summer, when floodwaters nearly wiped out Old Ellicott City, many people looked at the damage as bad luck caused by a 500-year storm. The truth is that such storms are no longer rare events. The Northeast United States has experienced a staggering 70 percent increase in intense rainstorms thanks to climate change. Unfortunately, efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region to adapt policies to address these threats are lagging far behind, and without broad and meaningful action, more property damage, injuries and loss of life are likely. Heavier and more frequent rains, among other impacts of climate change, also pose a threat to the massive effort to clean up the bay.

On Wednesday, Maryland's secretaries of the departments of agriculture, natural resources and environment will have a chance to turn the tide. They will be meeting with federal …

Feb. 27, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

The ascension of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ushers in a new chapter in the long story of cooperative federalism in the administration of U.S. environmental laws. Pruitt's words and actions as the Attorney General of Oklahoma suggest that, as much as any other issue, idea, or policy, federalism will be a recurring theme.

But are the cries about federalism really about finding the proper balance of state and federal roles in implementation of our environmental laws? Or is federalism merely a tool in the conservative toolbox used to achieve their real aim: dismantling environmental regulation?

To be sure, a focus on federalism has long been one of the core values of conservatives as they argue for devolution of power to state and local governments. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized federalism as one of the oldest and most …

Feb. 21, 2017 by Daniel Farber

At a national meeting of state utility regulators, the head of the group recently said that the Clean Power Plan was basically dead, but this might not matter because "arguably, you're seeing market-based decarbonization" due to technological changes. Case in point: Texas.

Market trends are pushing Republican stronghold Texas toward a cleaner grid. ERCOT, which operates nearly all of the state's grid, recently projected that in the next fifteen years, Texas will add almost 20 gigawatts of solar, equivalent to 15-20 new nuclear reactors. In fact, under virtually every scenario ERCOT considered, the only new capacity is solar, with no new fossil fuel plants expected. ERCOT also expects to retire about a third that amount in coal generation along with some older, inefficient natural gas plants. Regulatory changes could nudge these numbers upward or downward. Both the use of renewables and the fossil fuel retirements …

Feb. 14, 2017 by Bill Funk

The so-called Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act) has already passed the House this year, as it did in previous sessions. The current version, which amends the Congressional Review Act (CRA), differs somewhat from previous versions but still suffers from a fatal flaw – it is unconstitutional. 

The current REINS Act has three parts. One part essentially reflects the recent Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, except that the REINS Act only requires repeal of one regulation for each regulation adopted, rather than the E.O.'s two-for-one requirement. Another part of the REINS Act continues the CRA, but only for non-major rules. The final part, the part that is unconstitutional, provides that no "major rule" – defined as a "significant regulatory action" requiring a cost/benefit analysis under Executive Order 12866 – shall take effect until Congress "approves" it by joint …

Feb. 6, 2017 by David Driesen

To carry out their duty under the Constitution, senators must ask themselves the following question when considering a president's cabinet nominee: Will this person faithfully execute the laws, even if the president wishes to ignore them and carry out a contrary policy? Unless the answer to that question is a clear "Yes," they must reject the nominee. 

Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist Papers that the Constitution authorizes the Senate to disapprove of presidential nominees to discourage the president from nominating candidates "personally allied to him" lest we have office holders with the "pliancy to render them obsequious instruments of his pleasure." The founders required Senate approval of "officers of the United States" to make sure that the executive branch faithfully executes the law, rather than formulates policy on its own. To that end, the Constitution requires all federal officeholders to swear an oath, not to …

Feb. 2, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its annual Bay Barometer report. Along with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's annual State of the Bay and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Bay Report Card, the Bay Program's report closes out the assessments of the Bay for 2016 (for what it's worth, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and I released our own assessment last year).

The Bay Barometer is chock full of charts describing the progress (and lack thereof) being made toward the many water quality, ecologic, and wildlife outcomes established by states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. While glancing through several of the graphs in the Barometer report, I wondered: Which graphs would I use to convey a sense of progress? What would be my "chart of the year" for 2016?

For me, that chart-of-the-year honor has to go to a series I found …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 28, 2017

Congress Wants Land Agency to Ignore the Facts and Future

Feb. 28, 2017

Baltimore Sun op-ed: Bay Cleanup Must Factor in Climate Change

Feb. 27, 2017

Environmental Federalism and Scott Pruitt -- We've Been Here Before

Feb. 21, 2017

Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

Feb. 14, 2017

Why the REINS Act Is Unconstitutional

Feb. 6, 2017

The Cabinet and the Rule of Law

Feb. 2, 2017

Some Good News: Recent Indicators Show More Progress in the Chesapeake Bay