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Sept. 25, 2019 by David Flores

Striking for Environmental and Social Justice in Roanoke

On September 23, I attended the Climate Emergency: Tri-State Pipeline Strike in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. While affiliated with the Global Climate Strike week of action, the event in Roanoke was another milestone in the years-long and continuing struggle to prevent construction of natural gas pipelines through parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.                      

The day prior, my family and I attended a “Circle of Protection” event atop verdant Bent Mountain, which is home to a farming community and is part of the Roanoke River watershed, a source of drinking water for urban Roanoke. Bent Mountain and the greater Roanoke region are the site of multiple Native American burial grounds and other archeological sites that have been dug up and destroyed in the last two years to make way for the pipeline, so the event began with an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of the land, their descendants, and current Virginia tribes impacted by the pipeline projects. Previous Circle of Protection events have been held elsewhere in communities affected by the pipeline projects, including Union Hill, a rural community of descendants of former slaves whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by a proposed pipeline compressor station.

Downtown on Monday, it …

Sept. 23, 2019 by James Goodwin
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Last week's televised climate town hall saw several Democratic presidential candidates outline an impressive array of policies that, if implemented effectively, offer some measure of hope for averting the worst consequences of the climate crisis for us and future generations. The operative concept there – lurking in the background and too often taken for granted – is effective implementation. The fact of the matter is that meeting our country's greatest challenges – climate change, economic inequality, systemic racism, access to quality health care – will require effective implementation, and that in turn will require a more robust, modernized, and inclusive regulatory system than we currently have.

Conservatives have long vilified the U.S. system of regulatory safeguards, while establishment Democrats – when not trying to ignore it altogether – have at best accepted regulation only grudgingly and apologetically. As demonstrated at a June CPR conference, though, progressives are staking out a new, more …

Sept. 19, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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Tomorrow (September 20), I'm standing up for workers' rights by marching to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as part of the Global Climate Strike. I'll be walking in solidarity with the students and youth organizing the strike to spread the message that climate action is imperative.                      

Addressing the growing climate crisis and creating jobs are two necessary actions often pitted against each other, as if only one were possible at a time. That's a false choice, misleading rhetoric created by the fossil fuel industry and climate science deniers in Congress to slow down government action while continuing to pass the cost of dirty energy extraction onto families and communities – both in dollars and in health consequences. The reality is that we can have both good, green jobs and a healthy environment; thriving workers and a thriving planet go together.

Discussions about climate change often …

Sept. 18, 2019 by David Hunter
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For nearly two years, the World Bank Board of Directors has fumbled what should be an easy decision to modernize its Inspection Panel, the primary institution that addresses the damage the Bank's lending can do to local communities. At issue is whether the Panel should be able to monitor the Bank's implementation of Management Action Plans developed and approved in light of Panel investigations. What to all outside observers would seem like an inherent part of closing any complaint – to ensure promised commitments were fulfilled – has been opposed by certain borrowers and Bank staff who believe they should not be held accountable for impacts on local communities in the first place.

Like other development financial institutions (DFIs), the World Bank's focus on large-scale projects leaves local communities bearing a disproportionate level of environmental and social risk. Too often, that risk turns into actual harm – harm that those …

Sept. 16, 2019 by Amy Sinden
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Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The Trump EPA last month proposed a new plan to remove oil and gas developers’ responsibility for detecting and fixing methane leaks in their wells, pipelines and storage operations. This proposal to axe the Obama-era methane rule is notable for two reasons. First, it is a huge step backward in the race to stabilize the climate, just at the moment scientists warn we need to move forward with unprecedented speed. Second, it’s the latest in a growing list of Trump rollbacks opposed by the very industries they’re purportedly intended to help.

The Obama EPA put the methane rule in place for good reason: Methane is a powerful driver of climate disruption. While it doesn’t linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, for the 10 or 20 years it …

Sept. 16, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Last Friday, the D.C. Circuit decided Wisconsin v. EPA. The federal appeals court rejected industry attacks on a regulation dealing with interstate air pollution but accepted an argument by environmental groups that the regulation was too weak. Last week also featured depressing examples of the drumbeat of Trump administration rollbacks, so it was especially nice to have some good news.

I hesitated about whether to write something about the case because the opinion makes for dull reading, unless you happen to have been deeply involved in the case. As I thought about it, however, I decided that the undramatic features of the case – the ways in which it was pretty routine – were themselves worth writing about. The opinion shows what it looks like when smart, capable judges apply themselves to complex technical issues. It's not glamorous, but it's crucial to the …

Sept. 16, 2019 by Joel Mintz
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Late last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) quietly took a major step to undercut the enforcement of our federal pollution control laws. In a publicly released but little publicized memorandum, DOJ’s Associate Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, announced that the agency will no longer approve enforcement case settlements with local governments that include Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) – a long-standing feature of negotiated resolutions of environmental enforcement cases.

SEPs allow a non-complying company, state, or local government to develop an environmentally beneficial project, not otherwise required by law, in lieu of paying part of its fine. To implement its SEP program, EPA carefully crafted a Policy on Supplemental Environmental Projects with the intention of ensuring that SEPs are limited to projects that improve public health or the environment while not directly benefitting a violator or third parties. Under EPA …

Sept. 9, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Prompting rage by President Trump, California and several carmakers entered into a voluntary agreement on carbon emissions from new cars that blew past the administration's efforts to repeal existing federal requirements. Last week, the Trump administration slapped back at California. Although there's been a lot of editorializing about that response, I've seen very little about the legal dimensions of the administration's actions. I'd like to shed a little bit of light on those.

The administration took two separate actions. First, the Department of Transportation and EPA sent a letter arguing that California's action appeared to violate the federal statutes governing CAFE (fuel efficiency) and emissions standards for new vehicles. Second, the Justice Department opened an antitrust probe of the car companies themselves. How strong are the government's legal positions?

Let's start with the DOT/EPA letter. The Clean Air Act and the …

Sept. 5, 2019 by David Flores
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In August, Virginians remembered the devastation wrought by Hurricane Camille 50 years earlier. After making landfall on the Gulf Coast, that storm dumped dozens of inches of rain in western portions of the Commonwealth and killed more than 150 people in flash floods and landslides. Today, Virginians along the Atlantic coast and in the Hampton Roads region have Hurricane Dorian on their minds, with potentially life-threatening flooding, property destruction, and toxic floodwaters being serious hazards.

The National Weather Service is now predicting that Dorian could bring storm surge flooding of two to four feet to Hampton Roads by Friday afternoon. Heavy precipitation could also exacerbate storm surge with urban and river flooding.

Over the next several days, residents of Hampton Roads and government officials should also be cautious about the risk of floodwaters contaminated by wastewater and debris and, especially, the threat of flood-induced chemical disaster. Based …

Sept. 5, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Under executive orders dating back to President Ronald Reagan, regulatory agencies like EPA are supposed to follow cost-benefit analysis when making decisions. Under the Trump administration, however, cost-benefit analysis has barely even served as window-dressing for its deregulatory actions. It has launched a series of efforts to prevent full counting of regulatory benefits, as well as committing any number of sins against economic principles, as I detailed in a post in January. Essentially, the administration has had a laser-like focus on the costs of regulation, which it often exaggerates, while making every effort to ignore or minimize possible benefits. If Trump is reelected, that will continue.

But what if the Democrats win? Then things are more complicated. A lot depends on the identity of the Democratic nominee. Regardless of who that person may be, however, some parts of cost-benefit analysis will survive …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 25, 2019

Striking for Environmental and Social Justice in Roanoke

Sept. 23, 2019

New Report: How to Build a Regulatory System for a More Just and Equitable America

Sept. 19, 2019

On Strike for Climate Justice and Workers' Rights

Sept. 18, 2019

The World Bank Considers Stepping Back from Accountability

Sept. 16, 2019

Overshoot: Trump's Deregulatory Zeal Goes Beyond Even Where Industry Asks Him to Go

Sept. 16, 2019

A Welcome Victory in the D.C. Circuit

Sept. 16, 2019

Abolition of Supplemental Environmental Projects: A Damaging Retreat for Environmental Enforcement