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Sept. 24, 2018 by Rebecca Bratspies, Victor Flatt, Sarah Lamdan

From Surviving to Thriving: Disaster in Disaster: The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Must Be Enforced

Sarah Lamdan, Professor of Law at CUNY Law School, co-authored this post, which is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report.

This chapter is excerpted from a law review article that is forthcoming in U. Arkansas Law Review, titled "Taking a Page from FDA’s Prescription Medicine Information Rules: Reimagining Environmental Information for Climate Change."

What Happened?

In August 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southern United States in rapid succession. These massive hurricanes wrought widespread devastation — destroying buildings, flooding neighborhoods, and taking lives. Harvey shattered the national rainfall record for a single storm, dropping more than 50 inches of rain in a 36-hour period. Thousands of stranded Houstonians waded through chest-deep floodwaters. Unbeknownst to them, those residents were wading through more than just water. Many storm victims were in fact wading through a toxic stew. The same floodwaters that filled the streets had also inundated scores of industrial facilities and at least 13 of Houston’s 41 Superfund sites. According to the Houston Chronicle, “In all, reporters cataloged more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and air. Most were never publicized.”

Hurricane floodwaters notoriously carry all manner …

Nov. 13, 2013 by Rebecca Bratspies
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We have a problem in New York City: We generate more than 30,000 tons of waste each day. Roughly one third of that waste is household trash, and the daunting task of collecting garbage from New York City’s three million households falls to 7,000 workers from the NYC Department of Sanitation.  They are, in the words of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, “keeping New York City alive.” 

All of NYC’s waste is shipped out of state for disposal. But first, the city must consolidate the garbage at one of 58 waste transfer stations. In addition to the overpowering odors the trash itself produces, these stations generate a constant stream of truck traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, and safety issues. So, of course, no one wants to live near them.

Thus, it may come as no surprise that most of NYC’s waste transfer stations …

Aug. 15, 2013 by Rebecca Bratspies
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This blog is cross-posted on The Nature of Cities.

In my first blog post for The Nature of Cities, I wrote about environmental justice as a bridge between traditional environmentalism and an increasingly urban global population. I suggested that we had work to do to makes environmental concerns salient to a new, ever-more urban generation. Since then, I have been working to test this hypothesis. To that end, I developed an environmental justice education project being implemented in New York City schools. This project is built around Mayah’s Lotthe environmental justice comic book I co-wrote with artist Charlie LaGreca for the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform (CUER). Funding for the project came from the CUNY Law School Innovation Fund. You can read the book here, and watch the video here.

(Full-disclosure, I am the founding director of CUER, and the Center’s mission in …

Sept. 18, 2012 by Rebecca Bratspies
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a(broad) perspective

Today’s post is the last in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties.  Each month, this series will discuss one of these treaties.  Previous posts are here.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention Adopted and Opened for Signature on December 10, 1982. Agreement on Part XI Adopted on July 28, 1994.

Entered into Force on November 16, 1994 (UNCLOS) and July 28, 1996 (Part XI) Number of Parties: 162 (UNCLOS) and 141 (Part XI)

Signed by the United States on July 29, 1994. Sent to the Senate on October 7, 1994. Reported favorably by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 25, 2004, and October 31, 2007

The United Nations Convention on …

March 21, 2011 by Rebecca Bratspies
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The twin natural disasters that struck Japan this month, earthquake and tsunami, left a trail of devastation in their path. Entire villages were lost. The death toll currently stands at more than 8,000 but is expected to rise much higher (more than 13,000 are missing). Even as survivors struggle for shelter, warmth and food, the natural disasters are being rapidly overshadowed by the unfolding nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The key difference is that the nuclear disaster didn’t have to happen. 

The earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear meltdown are all wrapped up together right now as one big human tragedy. But it is important not to blur the lines between risks that are inherent to living on planet earth, and risks that we have created for ourselves. Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes or tsunamis are woven into the very …

June 25, 2010 by Rebecca Bratspies
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Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls.

On Thursday Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana refused to delay the effect of the preliminary injunction he issued on Tuesday, overturning the U.S. Department of Interior’s May 28, 2010, Temporary Moratorium on deepwater drilling. (Related court documents available here.)

Several facets of the June 22 decision are truly astonishing.

Nowhere in the decision is there any recognition of the unique, emergency circumstances or the grave threat to the public that the agency was seeking to combat. Nor did the judge pay much attention to the express and explicit congressional intention that offshore oil activities be suspended when necessary to protect against environmental threats. Instead he elevated the desire of private companies to continue their profitmaking activities over the health and safety of an entire region. His decision raises a vital question about …

June 7, 2010 by Rebecca Bratspies
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Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls

Ever since the Deepwater Horizon began gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has been dazzling the American people with a series of colorfully named “solutions:” the dome; top hat, junk shot, top kill. However, as the days turned into week, and the weeks turned into months, one thing has become crystal clear. None of these fanciful solutions had ever been tried in deep water, and BP was making things up as it went along.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that BP was actually engaged in an elaborate theatre designed to divert attention from the fact that the only real hope of stopping the blowout leak is a relief well—a solution that is by no means guaranteed and is still two months away.

BP knew it had no way to stop this leak on April 20, the day Deepwater …

May 6, 2010 by Rebecca Bratspies
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Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls.

Today's New York Times update on the Deepwater Horizon disaster opens with BP’s failed efforts to control the remaining two leaks via concrete, or remote control robots. Strangely, the article makes no mention of the missing remote shut-off valve called an acoustic switch. This $500,000 device might well have prevented this whole catastrophe. But, the United States does not require that deepwater oil rigs install an acoustic switch, and BP and Transocean decided to forego it. The United States considered requiring these switches in 2000, but Bush administration nixed the idea after industry pushback. My guess is that Vice President Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force had a hand in that, but since the Task Force operated entirely behind closed doors, we may never know the truth of how the United States made this ill-considered choice. Apparently, the Times does not …

Feb. 24, 2010 by Rebecca Bratspies
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A few thousand fishermen and women are making port in Washington, D.C. today to rally against the best hope for the future of fishing. They don’t see it that way, of course, but a look at the evidence leaves no other conclusion.

The simple truth is that American waters have been overfished for years. When boats take out more fish than nature can replace, fish populations shrink. If fishing efforts doesn’t decrease to match the smaller fish population, the resulting overfishing creates a vicious cycle—each year’s catch takes a bigger and bigger percentage of the remaining fish, until finally there are so few fish that the entire fishery, and the jobs depending upon fishing, disappear. Unfortunately, we have reached that point of collapse with many of our northeast fisheries, like winter flounder, which is below 10 percent of the targeted level; and …

Dec. 21, 2009 by Rebecca Bratspies
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On December 9, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced S. 2856, a one paragraph bill that would quietly gut a key portion of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) by dramatically expanding a narrow exception to one of the Act’s central mandates. Were it to pass, the bill would mark a significant step in the wrong direction for United States fisheries policy. The bill, the "International Fisheries Agreement Clarification Act," is co-sponsored by interim Senator Paul Kirk (D-MA).

The MSA requires fisheries managers to impose scientifically defensible annual catch limits (ACLs). For fisheries identified as overfished, the Act immediately ends overfishing, and requires that the fish stocks be rebuilt as rapidly as possible (with 10 years as the outside limit.)

Section 304(e)(4)(A)(ii) of the MSA creates an exception for fisheries covered by international treaties from this “rebuild in 10 years” requirement. If enacted, Senator Snowe …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 24, 2018

From Surviving to Thriving: Disaster in Disaster: The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Must Be Enforced

Nov. 13, 2013

Tales from our trash: New York City's sanitation workers, sustainable cities, and the value of knowledge

Aug. 15, 2013

A Comic Book Sparks Kids Toward Environmental Justice

Sept. 18, 2012

Navigating the High Seas: Why the U.S. Should Ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty

March 21, 2011

Separating the Natural and Environmental Disasters in Japan

June 25, 2010

Judge's Injunction Blocking Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling Discounts Statutory Intent

June 7, 2010

Deepwater Horizon: Day 48