Dec. 28, 2017 by Matthew Freeman

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

CPR’s Member Scholars and staff rounded out a prolific year of op-ed writing with pieces covering several topics, touching on the Endangered Species Act, the scuttling of criminal justice reform, saving the Chesapeake Bay, the Administration’s efforts to unravel the Clean Power Plan, and the tax bill President Trump signed into law last week. You can read all 46 of this year's op-eds here, but here’s a brief roundup of the latest:

In an October 29, 2017, piece in The Hill, Bill Buzbee says that the Trump administration’s efforts to wish away the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan are headed for “rocky shoals.” Among other problems, the repeal push is proceeding in the absence of a formal rulemaking process. “Just last year,” he writes, “the Supreme Court reiterated that an agency proposing a policy change must provide a ‘reasoned explanation for disregarding facts and circumstances that underlay’ the prior policy…. A president’s policy leaning can influence but not displace an agency’s reasoned judgment. An agency proposing to change a rule…must engage with its past reasoning, past scientific and factual conclusions, statutory requirements and relevant court precedents.”

Writing in the December 8 …

Dec. 27, 2017 by Daniel Farber

The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan would require utilities to improve efficiency at coal-fired power plants and reduce the use of those plants in favor of generators using natural gas or renewables. Head of EPA Scott Pruitt claims EPA can only require CO2 cuts that can be accomplished by utilities “inside the fenceline” of a power plant. Under his interpretation, EPA could require a utility to increase the efficiency of a coal-fired plant. But, he assumes, his interpretation would rule out requiring a utility to reduce use of the coal-powered plant and obtain power elsewhere. In other words, the efficiency improvements for coal-fired plants would still be required, but not the requirement to reduce use of coal-fired plants in favor of other sources of electricity, because obtaining electricity elsewhere is something that happens outside the fenceline. That’s his justification for proposing to completely repeal Obama …

Dec. 21, 2017 by Matthew Freeman

"Despite the most extensive bipartisan support in many years for the reform of mass incarceration in the United States, the Trump administration has ignored this enormous problem and focuses solely on greater leniency for white collar criminals."

So writes CPR’s Rena Steinzor in her latest op-ed in The Hill. She goes on to describe the circumstances under which the Department of Justice abandoned its prosecution of HSBC, and with it a deferred prosecution agreement that would have settled a “massive criminal case accusing HSBC of money-laundering for Mexican drug cartels and allegedly serving as banker for rogue states like Iran and Sudan. The bank dramatically expanded its compliance efforts even as it stood accused of committing further crimes, including assisting its customers in evading U.S. taxes. But its agreement went up in a puff of smoke.”

The key to the bipartisan legislation was a conservative …

Dec. 20, 2017 by Katie Tracy

President Trump planned and then starred in his own ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, symbolic of all the safeguards for health, safety and the environment that he intends to shred while in office. This mockery of the administration’s obligation to ensure the public is protected from harm caused by corner-cutting businesses coincided with the release of the Administration’s fall 2017 regulatory agenda. What this political stunt — and the rhetoric that goes along with it — really means, however, is that Trump cares more about reducing the sheer number of regulatory safeguards than he does about evaluating the benefits those safeguards provide to our health and safety.  

As with the spring 2017 iteration of the agenda, Trump makes clear he has no concern for working families. OSHA’s fall agenda includes 16 planned activities, up from 14 in the spring. Of the 16, seven are listed as in …

Dec. 19, 2017 by Matthew Freeman

"You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?"

Winston Smith, 1984

Donald Trump has never been known for the breadth of his vocabulary. In his case, I’ve always assumed that was a marker of a not particularly curious mind. The guy’s openly contemptuous of higher education; he says he doesn’t read books because he gets what he needs to know from “watching the shows.” When speaking, he likes to repeat things, uttering the same short sentence or phrase two or three times in the same breath, presumably for emphasis. And his word choices won’t be adding to anyone’s vocabulary. He uses “very” very often, for example, and “very, very” very frequently, too.

Now we learn that the president and his team …

Dec. 18, 2017 by Evan Isaacson

On December 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment published its long-awaited nutrient trading regulations, capping more than two years of effort to develop a comprehensive environmental market intended to reduce the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. 

A trading market would allow people, companies, and governments required by law to reduce the amount of pollution they discharge to purchase "credits" for pollution reduction efforts undertaken by someone else. In theory, water pollution trading ensures overall discharges are capped over time and encourages reductions to happen where they can be achieved at the lowest cost. If done right, a trading program may provide an incentive for some to reduce pollution beyond what is required of them by law. 

Pollution trading has been credited with major achievements across the United States. But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution to environmental degradation. Much depends on …

Dec. 18, 2017 by Carl Cranor

Is the current "tax reform" going through Congress just? Justice is important because even if citizens are treated dissimilarly by institutions, if the differences are just, all have reasonable treatment and the institutions are likely to be socially accepted. 

A widely endorsed theory of justice, developed by the philosopher John Rawls nearly 50 years ago, captures how thoroughly unjust the congressional tax plan is. Understanding this and how it weaponizes wealth against most ordinary citizens may explain why so many people oppose it. 

The tax plan will initially reduce taxes on all income groups, with those in the top five percent receiving a higher share of tax reductions. Yet by 2027, 50 percent of middle- and lower-income groups are projected to pay more in taxes than they do now. Will the initial, temporary drop in taxes be enough to persuade those groups to look favorably on the …

Dec. 15, 2017 by James Goodwin

This post was originally released as a press statement on December 14 in response to President Donald Trump's speech on deregulation and his administration's Fall 2017 Unified Agenda.

Starting on Day One, the Trump administration has perpetrated an all-out assault on essential public safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and American families' financial security, and today, the president took the time to revel in all the damage he has overseen. The administration's anti-safeguard agenda for the coming year promises more of the same. 

For the president, this is about helping big-monied interests make more money. For everyday Americans, it's about making sure our kids can breathe clean air and drink clean water, saving for retirement, keeping workplaces safe, protecting our natural treasures, and warding off the worst effects of climate change. 

In his remarks today, President Trump included a lot of numbers. Here …

Dec. 14, 2017 by Rena Steinzor

This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission.

Despite research demonstrating that climate change is adding millions of pounds of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and his Bay states colleagues appear to be taking a page from the Trump playbook: Ignore this inconvenient truth.

Doubts about whether climate change is caused by humans and threatens the planet are rapidly going the way of urban legend. Just ask any resident of Puerto Rico, the Gulf Coast or California how life was during the three consecutive hurricanes or the wildfires that have plagued them this summer and fall. Reliable scientific research shows climate change is also compounding pollution in the Chesapeake. Rainfall exacerbated by these dire developments could mean millions of additional pounds of nitrogen and significantly more phosphorus reaching the Bay every year that will put restoration out of reach …

Dec. 12, 2017 by Dan Rohlf

This op-ed originally ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

During the holiday season, many people put significant effort into plans for getting along with one another at family gatherings. Seating plans are carefully strategized and touchy subjects avoided. We’ve learned that enjoying our shared holiday demands that we all compromise a little.

Plans for cooperation in managing the vast shrub-steppe plains of the American West – including thousands of acres in Nevada – are no different.

A few years ago, conflict there seemed inevitable. Environmental organizations asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list sage grouse – a bellwether for declining ecological conditions of the Intermountain West – as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. On the other hand, private landowners, industry groups and grazing permittees on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management worried that protections for the birds could eliminate their already-thin profit …

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

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

Dec. 27, 2017

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

Dec. 21, 2017

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

Dec. 20, 2017

OSHA Delays Critical Protections as Worker Deaths Increase

Dec. 19, 2017

Trump's Newspeak

Dec. 18, 2017

New Report: Three Fundamental Flaws in Maryland's Water Pollution Trading Regulations

Dec. 18, 2017

Weaponizing Wealth: Unjust Redistribution Upward