Nov. 16, 2012 by Robert Adler

U.S. Climate Disaster in Global Perspective

For those who have not been following the news lately, a recent article reported the following: A large tropical storm attributed to “unseasonable rainfall” slammed into the coast and moved inland, leaving many dead or missing, tens of thousands of residents evacuated or homeless, and government disaster response agencies struggling to provide food, shelter, and other critical services.

According to the article, “disaster response teams helped to move people to higher ground in rubber boats and nearly 100 shelters were opened … to accommodate people fleeing the flood zone.” Trains and other transit systems were closed; some communities were completely cut off from help; and to make matters worse, more intense rain was expected later in the same week.

News reports about Hurricane Sandy? Actually, no. This news came from an article by Agence France-Presse about Cyclone Nilam, which struck the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu just a week after Sandy unleashed similar catastrophe on the eastern United States. Nor was this an isolated incident in India. In September, the Agence France-Presse article continued, “two million people were forced to flee their homes in the north-eastern state of Assam after floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains.”

The point …

Oct. 15, 2012 by Robert Adler

Congress adopted the “modern” version of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, more commonly known as the “Clean Water Act,” forty years ago this week (Pub. L. No. 92-500, Oct. 18, 1972). As Congress faces persistent efforts to weaken this law, it is important to take stock of why the law was passed, how well we have met its goals and objectives, and how much is left to accomplish.

In the current anti-regulatory climate, it is easy to fall prey to “collective societal amnesia” about the severe problems that caused Congress to pass this historic legislation. At the time, the United States faced water pollution problems of crisis proportions. Nearly a third of U.S. drinking water supplies exceeded Public Health Service limits. The Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries found unsafe levels of mercury, pesticides, and other toxic pollutants in the majority …

July 24, 2012 by Robert Adler

The relentless heat wave that has plagued much of the country this summer, along with an accompanying paucity of rain, have plunged vast swaths of the United States into the most crippling drought in decades. Corn crops and now soy crops are withering, and commodity prices have risen dramatically. That could signal a sharp rise in domestic food prices just as the elections approach this fall, shocks to world grain markets fueled in large part by U.S exports, and significant financial losses to American agriculture. And that’s not to mention the horrific working conditions many farmers have to face every day in temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees F.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast suggests that little relief is in sight. As of the middle of July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had already designated 1,297 counties in 29 states as “primary natural …

Nov. 30, 2011 by Robert Adler

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument in PPL Montana, L.L.C v. State of Montana on December 7, it will consider issues of constitutional history dating to the early days of the American Republic and legal sources that some claim (and others dispute) trace to Magna Charta and the Institutes of Justinian in Roman law. The court will also consider a factual record that includes the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Moreover, the case involves a challenge for the more conservative Justices on the Court, who arguably have to choose between their concerns for private property rights and protection of state sovereignty.

Despite these fascinating underpinnings of the case, some might argue that the core legal issue is interesting only to a water law or property law scholar: What is the proper legal standard to determine “navigability” for purposes of who …

March 18, 2011 by Robert Adler

A decision issued on March 15 by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated portions of EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations, issued most recently in 2008, governing water pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations, or “CAFOs”. In National Pork Producers Council, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Fifth Circuit panel vacated those portions of EPA’s rule that required CAFOs to apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits based on a potential to discharge rather than an existing discharge, and that imposed liability for failure to apply for a permit. (The Court upheld other aspects of EPA’s CAFO rule.) The Fifth Circuit ruling represents a particular setback for EPA’s efforts to regulate CAFO pollution because it follows a 2005 decision by the Second Circuit (Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. United States Environmental …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Nov. 16, 2012

U.S. Climate Disaster in Global Perspective

Oct. 15, 2012

The Clean Water Act at 40: Can We Renew the Vision?

July 24, 2012

The Conundrum of Responding to Crippling Drought: Help Now or Reduce Future Vulnerability?

Nov. 30, 2011

Is State Ownership of Public Trust Waters At Risk When SCOTUS Hears <i>PPL Montana v. Montana?</i>

March 18, 2011

CAFOs, Circularity and Certainty in the CWA: Fifth Circuit's Decision in <i>National Pork Producers Council v. EPA</i> Raises Problems