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March 30, 2020 by Daniel Farber

Inequality and the Coronavirus

It's a truism among disaster experts that people who were disadvantaged before a disaster are also the most vulnerable during the disaster. There are aspects of the coronavirus pandemic that fit this mold. Here are some of the disparities we can expect to see.

Rural v. Urban

Much of our economic growth and job opportunity is in cities, which is why young people continually leave the countryside. Life expectancies also tend to be lower in rural areas. Although it's hard to be sure, people in those areas may also be disadvantaged in terms of the coronavirus. The virus is likely to spread more slowly in rural areas because the web of interpersonal interactions is less dense and because rural areas are further from the airports that initially spread the disease. That's a definite advantage. But when the epidemic does reach rural areas, the toll may be greater. According to USA Today, "18 million people live in counties that have hospitals but no ICU, about a quarter of them 60 or older, the analysis shows. Nearly 11 million more Americans reside in counties with no hospital, some 2.7 million of them seniors …

March 26, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Trump administration's major deregulatory efforts share a common theme. They assiduously avoid having to rely on scientific or economic evidence. Confronting that evidence is time-consuming and difficult, particularly when it often comes out the other way. Instead, the administration has come up with clever strategies to shut out the evidence.

The effort to repeal the Clean Power Plan illustrates some of these strategies. The Obama administration's plan would have cut carbon emissions from power plants along with destructive particulate emissions from those plants. The Trump administration didn't have much of a policy argument against the plan. So instead, it argued that the Clean Air Act just didn't give EPA the power to take sensible measures against climate change. As the old trial lawyer's saying puts it, "If the evidence is against you, argue the law."

The Clean …

March 25, 2020 by Sidney Shapiro, Liz Fisher
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Whatever one's political views, the end goal regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the same – to minimize the number of people dying and suffering from severe disease. As commentators have repeatedly noted, we need genuine expertise for that. Beyond involving scientists and physicians in decision-making, there are three steps in determining what that expertise should look like and how we tap into it most effectively.

First, the experts can inform decision-making, even if uncertainty will remain. While we can all agree on the end point – no one dying – how to get there is not clear, even to the experts. Rigorous expert judgment and a respect for science are therefore required. Expertise is developed not just from professional training, but from experience in using that training over and over, building up a store of experience that makes one a better expert.

Ultimately, however, the choices in uncertain situations are …

March 24, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the globe, the inequalities in American society have come into even sharper relief. People with low incomes who are unable to work from home risk being exposed to the virus at work or losing their jobs altogether. Their children may no longer have access to free or reduced-price meals at school. They are also less likely to have health insurance, receive new drugs, or have access to primary or specialty care, putting them at a greater risk of succumbing to the illness. As with any shock to the system – natural disaster, conflict, and now a pandemic – vulnerable populations are hit hardest and have a harder time bouncing back.                                                

In addition to socioeconomic risk factors, a less obvious but often inescapable hazard puts poor people in a literal and figurative chokehold: pollution. People with underlying health conditions, such as heart …

March 19, 2020 by James Goodwin
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Earlier this week, a group of 25 Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Board Members, Member Scholars, and staff signed a joint letter urging Russell Vought, Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to direct federal agencies to hold open active public comment periods for pending rulemakings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter further urges Vought to extend comment periods for at least 30 days beyond the end of the crisis.

Meaningful public participation is one of the bedrock principles upon which our regulatory system is based. Among other things, by enlisting the dispersed expertise of the public, it ensures higher-quality regulatory decision-making, and it imbues the process and its results with a crucial measure of credibility and legitimacy.

This goal of meaningful public participation is most notably enshrined in the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement that agencies provide members of the public …

March 19, 2020 by K.K. DuVivier
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This post is part of a series related to the March 12 Conference on Public Lands and Energy Transitions that was hosted by the George Washington University Law School's Environment and Energy Law Program.

Offshore wind holds huge promise as a renewable electricity source. Using existing turbine technologies, the U.S. potential is 2,058,000 megawatts (MW), enough to generate double the electricity demand of the entire United States in 2015. About 80 percent of that electricity demand is along the coasts, so getting the power to the public could prove easier than transmitting it from wind-rich midwestern states. Utilities from eight states up and down the East Coast from Maine to Virginia have committed to procuring 22,500 MW of offshore wind so far, and wind power appeared poised to take off when the Department of the Interior awarded 11 commercial offshore leases in 2016 …

March 18, 2020 by Alexandra Klass
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This post is part of a series related to the March 12 Conference on Public Lands and Energy Transitions that was hosted by the George Washington University Law School's Environment and Energy Law Program.

Our vast public lands and waters are both a major contributor to the global climate crisis and a potential solution to the problem. The extraction and use of oil and gas resources from public lands and waters produce 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If the public lands were its own nation, it would be the fifth largest global emitter of GHGs.

The scale of this problem has been exacerbated by the current administration. Since the start of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior – the primary federal agency charged by Congress with managing the use of public lands and waters – has used its statutory authority to …

March 16, 2020 by Karen Sokol
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"This report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it." That is the statement of Brian Hoskins, chair of Imperial College in London's Grantham Institute for Climate Change, about the recently released State of the Climate in 2019 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the WMO compiles information from scientists all over the world that has been a key driver of international climate law and policymaking. One of the IPCC's reports was similarly dire to that of the WMO's, but not without hope.

Although anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have disrupted the planet's climate system in ways that have already caused and will continue to cause massive harms all over the world, the IPCC warned, we still have time to prevent a level of disruption that …

March 12, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On March 4, I joined community members and advocates from Assateague Coastal Trust, Center for a Livable Future, Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch, and NAACP to testify in favor of Maryland's House Bill 1312. The bill, introduced by Delegate Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), would place a moratorium on permits for new or expanding concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) in the state. The legislation would apply to "industrial poultry operations," defined as operations that produce 300,000 or more broiler chickens per year. It was introduced with strong support from community members and environmental and public health advocates hoping to pump the brakes on the seemingly unmitigated growth of poultry CAFOs, especially on the Eastern Shore.

The environmental and public health harms from CAFOs are nothing new to Eastern Shore residents. As stated in CPR's testimony, the expansion of CAFOs on the Delmarva Peninsula is …

March 11, 2020 by Sandra Zellmer, Alexandra Klass
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Originally published by NYU Press. Reprinted with permission.

The flood season is upon us once again. Beginning in February, parts of Mississippi and Tennessee were deluged by floods described as "historic," "unprecedented," even "Shakespearean." At the same time, Midwestern farmers are still reeling from the torrential rains of 2019 that destroyed billions of dollars' worth of crops and equipment, while wondering whether their water-ravaged farmland can ever be put back into production. All this while the Houston area continues to recover from three so-called "500-year floods" in as many years, back-to-back in 2015, 2016, and, most notably, Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

As one tragedy follows another, they barely qualify as national news anymore. Instead, record-breaking floods and destruction are becoming commonplace. Why do the sequels barely warrant top billing? How have our national policies failed us, and why do they continue to fail us …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 30, 2020

Inequality and the Coronavirus

March 26, 2020

The Flight from Evidence-Based Regulation

March 25, 2020

Three Steps for an Expert Response to COVID-19

March 24, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Reinforces the Need for Cumulative Impacts Analysis

March 19, 2020

CPR, Allies Call on Trump Administration to Hold Open Public Comment Process during COVID-19 Pandemic

March 19, 2020

Can Political Headwinds Against U.S. Offshore Wind Power Help Policy Change Course?

March 18, 2020

Public Lands and Just Energy Transitions