Aug. 30, 2017 by David Flores

Trump Administration Policies Will Make Americans More Vulnerable to Toxic Floodwaters

As the country bears witness to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, a storm unlike any other, the Trump administration's policy of rolling back worker, emergency response, and environmental safeguards will all but ensure that victims of future flooding events will be exposed to toxic contamination.

Over just a 36-hour period, an estimated 9 trillion gallons of rainwater deluged Texas, affecting millions and displacing tens of thousands along the Gulf Coast and in Houston. As the rainfall and flooding wear on this week, emergency responders continue rescuing stranded victims from the floodwaters. News outlets have reported that these floodwaters have exposed thousands to sewage overflows, but far less noted is how severe floods also expose residents and emergency responders to toxic industrial contamination. 

Oil and gas refineries – including the nation's second largest – shuttered operations before and during Harvey, confirming years of warnings about the vulnerability of Texas' oil and gas sector to hurricanes and other severe storms. However, closing operations does not prevent inundation of industrial facilities and the resulting risk of chemical spills, discharges, or toxic air pollution

According to EPA data, there are 15,000 or more industrial facilities that were exposed to Harvey's path in …

Aug. 28, 2017 by Alice Kaswan

With a sense of horror, the nation is watching waters rise in southeastern Texas as now-Tropical Storm Harvey spins across the Gulf Coast. While no individual storm can be attributed to climate change, scientists predict more intense storms, and the wisdom of preparing for future floods has never been clearer. And yet, less than two weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order that rolled back a federal flood standard designed to anticipate intense flooding. Instead of investing in infrastructure to prepare for flood risks, the executive order jeopardizes future infrastructure.

One prong of President Trump's executive order "streamlining" federally-funded infrastructure reverses an Obama-era order that had wisely required federal agencies to take potential flooding into account when funding projects. Under Obama's Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, jointly developed by many federal agencies with input from a wide range of state and other stakeholders, federal …

Aug. 23, 2017 by Matt Shudtz

Last week, more than two dozen law professors from around the country – many of them CPR Member Scholars – filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging a fresh look at a lower court decision with sweeping implications for the balance of power between states and the federal government. The issue is vital to Louisiana because it affects whether oil and gas companies can be held liable for decades of damage they have done to the state's coastal wetlands.

The case is ambitious, to say the least. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority—East is small government agency that manages a complex system of levees, floodwalls, gates, pumps, retention systems, and more to keep Louisiana's residents safe from flooding. The levee authority does this even while sea levels rise and the spongy wetlands that might aid its work disappear at a rate measured …

Aug. 16, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

It's that time of year again. No, I don't mean time for back-to-school sales, last-ditch beach getaways, or Shark Week re-runs. Instead, I'm referring to the time of year when we're once again reminded just how sick our waterways are.

Every year around this time, we read about massive dead zones and toxic algal blooms infecting large swaths of our nation's inland and coastal waters. The combination of warming water temperatures and fertilizer runoff during the growing season leads to vast areas of lifelessness for many waterways and aquatic ecosystems.

America's rivers and streams flush the excess nutrients that are applied to, or fall upon, our landscape. When these pollutants finally settle out in our estuaries, deltas, gulfs, and coastal bays, they feed a great swirl of life and death. The fertilizers not taken up by crops or land-based ecosystems instead feed algae, which decompose in a …

Aug. 11, 2017 by Daniel Farber

Rolling back EPA regulations is one of the Trump administration's priorities. The most notable example is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut CO2 emissions from power plants. The other rule that has gotten considerable attention is the so-called WOTUS rule, which defines federal jurisdiction to regulate wetlands and watersheds. But these are not the only rules in the crosshairs. EPA has announced plans to reconsider a rule limiting emission of toxic substances from power plants, rules dealing with methane emissions from oil and gas operations and from landfills, a chemical plant safety rule, and a rule dealing with water pollution from power plants. EPA plans to replace some of these rules and eliminate others altogether. Some of these rules are still the subject of litigation, so EPA is seeking to have the court proceedings put on hold, or to have the courts send …

Aug. 7, 2017 by Martha McCluskey

This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.

Did you read the fine print when you signed up for your credit card, a loan on your car, or a new checking account? Chances are, you missed an important provision called a "forced arbitration clause." This provision says that if the bank or credit card company has made a mistake it refuses to correct, or even cheated you out of money, you cannot sue to attempt to get your money back. Instead, you must pursue your claim in a secretive, privately run forum called "arbitration." In contrast to the courts, the arbitration process is full of pitfalls that discourage people from bringing claims, has rules that disadvantage consumers, and, for the few consumers who prevail, provides inadequate compensation. And that's exactly why banks and lenders force you to use it.

It's also why last month, the Consumer …

Aug. 4, 2017 by Alejandro Camacho

In spite of its documented success in conserving vulnerable species and ecosystems, as well as robust and enduring support among American voters, the federal Endangered Species Act has not been spared from calls to devolve funding and authority from the federal government. As this trend has gained increasing support within the 115th Congress and the Trump administration, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is widely expected to introduce legislation that seeks to erode federal support for species conservation. Under the banner of "modernization" and through the mechanisms of devolution, the bill is anticipated to transfer responsibility for the protection and recovery of imperiled species to the states. But as a new report shows, states are not ready to take on this crucial responsibility.

The report, released August 2 by the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources at the University …

Aug. 2, 2017 by Rena Steinzor

Obama's Fall 2016 Versus Trump's Spring 2017 Unified Agendas

On July 20, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was going to kill hundreds of rules considered by previous administrations to protect public health, worker and consumer safety, the environment, and working people navigating the financial services marketplace. The Trump Spring 2017 "regulatory agenda" was lengthy and complicated. To understand its full implications, you needed to compare it to the last regulatory agenda issued by the Obama administration in the fall of 2016. No one could achieve that detailed analysis within the news cycle spanning the president's announcement, although Matthew Shudtz, CPR's executive director, said accurately that "we are watching the American safety net unravel before our eyes." 

We have now completed a comparison of the Obama and Trump agendas, as reflected in two charts that list the rules contained in: 

Aug. 1, 2017 by Matt Shudtz

August is the time for back-to-school shopping, leading parents everywhere on the search for the best deals to fill our kids' backpacks. When that search ends at bargain outlets and dollar stores, though, there is a hidden cost many may not be aware of: the health burden from toxic chemicals in cheap consumer goods. Our chemical safety laws do not do enough to protect our children and families, so public health advocates like the Campaign for Healthier Solutions are putting pressure directly on the retailers to ensure the products on their shelves are safe for their customers.

Looking at the recently released regulatory agenda for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), it is clear that any progress toward protecting people from the hazards of toxic chemicals that surround us will have to come from similar grassroots campaigns as long as President Trump keeps …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 30, 2017

Trump Administration Policies Will Make Americans More Vulnerable to Toxic Floodwaters

Aug. 28, 2017

As Texas Floods, President Trump Backpedals on Resiliency

Aug. 23, 2017

Law Professors from Every Coast Ask SCOTUS to Weigh in on Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Case

Aug. 16, 2017

Summer: The Season of Sickness for America's Waters

Aug. 11, 2017

200 Days and Counting: Pollution and Climate Change

Aug. 7, 2017

The Hill Op-Ed: The House Recently Sided with Big Banks over Consumers

Aug. 4, 2017

New Report Shows State Endangered Species Laws Come Up Short in Protecting Imperiled Plants, Animals, Habitats