May 13, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

Obama's Executive Order on the Chesapeake - a First

Yesterday, as the Executive Council for the Chesapeake Bay Program held its annual meeting, President Obama issued an Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration (a first), declaring the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure and signaling that EPA will play a strong role in leading Bay cleanup. For years, federal leadership on the Bay has been missing in action. President Obama's move is dramatic, and we dare to hope that this could be a turning point.

Among other things, the order:

  • Requires EPA to “examine how to make full use of its authorities under the Clean Water Act to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters”
  • Establishes a Federal Leadership Committee headed by EPA and including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation to oversee program activities, including data management and reporting;
  • Requires the agencies identified as part of the Federal Leadership Committee to make recommendations within 120 days on the regulations, policies, and programs needed to restore Bay water quality, as well as on how resources under the Farm Bill should be targeted to better protect Bay waters;
  • Requires the Federal Leadership Committee to define goals for the Bay and …

May 11, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

Cattle, chickens, and hogs create more than 500 million tons of manure in the United States annually – three times more than the sanitary waste produced by people. Yet, in contrast to a concerted federal and state effort to fund and build sewage treatment plants since the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, dealing with the water pollution problems caused by animal waste has been like wrestling a greased pig – a stinky, frustrating mess.

Regulating agricultural waste in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been no less frustrating than in any other area of the country. And it’s no secret that nitrogen and phosphorous loadings from manure are killing the Bay. Recent developments in the Bay watershed, however, could signal a new direction on regulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs – factory farms) and the application of manure to cropland by farmers. An emerging coalition of 40 environmental …

April 20, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Frontline will air Poisoned Waters, a two-hour documentary on the continuing pollution of American waterways (9pm on many PBS stations; check your local listings). Having seen part of the program, I recommend it. Watching a bulldozer move chicken manure – much of which will end up in the Chesapeake Bay – and seeing filthy stormwater drains pouring into Puget Sound serve as stark reminders for why fighting for clean water matters.

Six-legged frogs swim in the Potomac River. The oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay is decimated, only two percent of what it was fifty years ago. Approximately 150,000 pounds of untreated toxins drain into Puget Sound every day. One large industrial hog farm produces the same amount of waste as a city the size of Philadelphia annually – and much of this waste runs off into our rivers. The ways our waters are in trouble go …

March 12, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

The truth hurts. Some of us accept the truth; some of us ignore it. All too often, industry-sponsored scientists take another approach to the truth: attack.


A recent spat over a study finding that perchlorate blocks iodine in breast milk is an object lesson in what CPR Member Scholar Tom McGarity calls “attack science.”


In October, I blogged about this study, which was the first to ask whether perchlorate inhibits iodine transport to breast milk. Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel and munitions. It’s known to cause thyroid problems by inhibiting how iodine is absorbed by the body. Iodine is essential to proper fetal and infant neurological development. According to the EPA, perchlorate has contaminated the drinking water of 16.6 million Americans to unsafe levels. The study’s question is important because though we knew that perchlorate inhibits babies' thyroids when they ingest it …

March 2, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

The Center for Public Integrity released a report last week finding that the number of lobbyists seeking to influence federal policy on climate change has expanded more than 300 percent in five years. The report also finds that special interest industry lobbyists outnumber public interest environmental advocates 8-to-1.


That’s right. The most important environmental legislation in our lifetime is likely to come before Congress this year, and the overwhelming majority of meetings that Members of Congress have with advocates will be with folks interested in either watering it down or gumming it up.


Significantly, the report identifies the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) as the “leading voices against climate action.” While most climate change junkies would not be surprised that these groups oppose any action on climate change, there’s more to the story. Industry folks are suiting up …

Feb. 17, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: climate change is different from traditional environmental problems. It’s global, for one thing. Carbon dioxide isn’t a traditional pollutant, for another. It doesn’t cause cancer. It doesn’t kill fish. Plants use it in photosynthesis; every human and animal emits it. The problem is that combustion creates it, too, which is why our modern, engine-loving world has too much.


CO2 is also fungible. One ton of CO2 is as good or bad as any other. So, the thinking goes, trading greenhouse gas emissions makes good sense: under such a program, sources will either reduce their emissions or pay to emit, but as long as the cap is stringent enough, emissions will decrease overall. And those localized concentrations of pollution that environmentalists ordinarily worry about when it comes to trading regimes, those …

Jan. 28, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

We will restore science to its rightful place. -- President Barack Obama, Inaugural Speech


As Governor of Texas, I have set high standards for our public schools, and I have met those standards. -- Former President George W. Bush, Aug. 2000 CNN Interview  


With former President Bush hightailing it back to Texas last week, you’d think the cowboy clichés might be right behind him, maybe waiting for the next Ann Richards or Molly Ivins to make them fresh and funny again. But, given the Texas State Board of Education’s recent decision to reject – yes, reject – anti-science pro-creationism language in the state’s science standards, I just can’t resist throwing out a few more Texas gems (especially since I lived in Austin, Texas for six years and still miss it).  So here goes: although I’m apt to worry the warts off a frog, it looks like …

Jan. 23, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

When it comes to protecting the environment and human health, the difference between what the Obama Administration portends and what the Bush Administration wrought may reside in the difference between three little words: “yes, we can” versus “no we won’t.” How and when Lisa Jackson, President-elect Obama’s pick to head the EPA, tackles perchlorate will be an early indicator of whether the difference between Bush and Obama will be as dramatic as environmentalists and public health advocates hope. Perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel and munitions, has contaminated at unsafe levels the drinking water of 16.6 million Americans, according to the EPA.  Perchlorate blocks the uptake of iodide into thyroid. This is particularly bad during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers, because iodide is essential to proper fetal and infant brain development. If fetuses and breastfeeding babies don’t get the iodide they need …

Dec. 17, 2008 by Shana Campbell Jones

Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions.                                                            -- Thomas Jefferson


Last week, I attended the National Conference on Climate Governance at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.  Given the politicization of climate change science and the impending political battles over what to do about climate change, “Mr. Jefferson’s University” was a profoundly fitting -- if ironic -- setting for a climate change and governance conference. In addition to being one of the founders of the republic, Thomas Jefferson assiduously recorded the weather for 50 years in his daily journal. (A little-known fact: Thomas Jefferson recruited volunteers throughout Virginia to observe the weather, establishing a …

Dec. 4, 2008 by Shana Campbell Jones

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Entergy Corp. v. EPA. The case involves a challenge by electric utilities to new EPA regulations requiring power plants to protect aquatic life by regulating “cooling water intake structures” at existing power plants. Billions of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic organisms are drawn into these cooling intake structures and killed yearly.


So basically the Court gets to decide between protecting all those creatures, or signing off on a very large fish fry.  But, as bad as the outcome in this case could be for aquatic life generally, the argument that industry is making before the Court suggests that it may have its eye on even bigger game. Not only do they seek to delay or scuttle cooling intake regulations, they’re making an argument that, if adopted by the Court, would threaten the gut the …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
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Skipping Rulemaking Process with Backroom Fuel Economy Deal, White House Opened Itself to Darrell Issa's Attack

July 5, 2011

BPA, the Chamber of Commerce, and a Summer Road Trip to Remember

Aug. 19, 2010

Scholarship Round-Up: New Directions in Environmental Law

July 22, 2010

Big Chicken Loses Round One in Groundbreaking Water Pollution Case

June 30, 2010

Senator Cardin's Chesapeake Bay Bill Headed to Mark-Up

June 30, 2010

Chesapeake Bay Bill Amended and Passed out of Committee

June 10, 2010

Bidding for Pollution Control Dollars in the Chesapeake: A Modest Proposal for the Amish Farmer