The Flood of Takings Cases after Hurricane Harvey

by John Echeverria | October 23, 2017

Robert Meltz, Special Counsel at Defenders of Wildlife, co-authored this post.

On August 27, as Hurricane Harvey blew through the Houston area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found itself between the proverbial rock and hard place. Since the 1940s, it had operated a flood control project to control the risk of flood damage to downtown Houston and the Houston Ship Channel. It had accomplished this by carefully controlling the release of flood waters from the project's dams. Now, however, the Corps confronted Hurricane Harvey, a megastorm generating massive, unprecedented volumes of flood water. 

The Corps faced the choice of either limiting water releases from the project to protect downstream properties at the cost of flooding upstream properties, or increasing project releases to protect upstream properties at the cost of flooding downstream properties. Not surprisingly, the Corps' decision on August 27 and on the following days, to release up to 13,000 cubic feet per second from the project dams, which arguably contributed to the flooding of both downstream and upstream properties, left everyone unhappy. 

What is surprising is that property owners upstream and downstream from the project have now filed as least 61 – yes, 61! – separate lawsuits in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (CFC) asserting a "taking" of their private property under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All told, the complaints seek "just compensation" from the U.S. government to the tune of ...

CPR's Latest Op-Eds Take on the Assault on Our Safeguards

by Matthew Freeman | October 16, 2017
CPR's Member Scholars and staff have continued to appear in the nation's op-ed pages to expose the ongoing assault on our safeguards by President Trump and Congress. Among recent examples: Dan Farber's July 5 article in The Hill highlighted the many flaws in legislation introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) designed to encumber the development of regulatory safeguards. In "Tangling life-saving regulations in red tape," Farber writes, "[T]he bill would impose needlessly complex procedures that will ...

Senate Briefing Highlights Need for Strong Federal Role in Protecting Endangered Species

by Alejandro Camacho | October 03, 2017
On September 28, I joined senators and Senate staff for a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Our discussion focused on the report I co-authored with my colleagues at the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources, entitled Conservation Limited: Assessing State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protection, which investigates states' capacity to protect and recover endangered species by looking at how these laws compare to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also looks at state and ...

Trump to America's Most Vulnerable Communities: You're on Your Own

by James Goodwin | September 28, 2017
UPDATE: President Trump is no longer scheduled to speak on deregulation on October 2, but the planned deregulatory "summit" with various cabinet-level agencies is still slated to occur. Government-sanctioned cruelty makes for shocking images, as the events of the past few weeks demonstrate. People in wheelchairs forcibly dragged from congressional hearing rooms for protesting legislative attempts to strip them of access to affordable health care. The uncertainty on the faces of Puerto Rican parents as they survey the damage to ...

At House Judiciary Hearing, CPR's Steinzor to Call for Repeal of Congressional Review Act

by James Goodwin | September 27, 2017
Tomorrow, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor is scheduled to appear before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law of the House Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing focused on the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA is a controversial law that has been aggressively used this past year by the majority in Congress and the Trump administration to repeal 14 regulatory safeguards that would have protected consumers, workers, and our environment. In her testimony, Steinzor makes the ...

CPR Scholars to EPA, Army Corps: Scrapping the Clean Water Rule is Unlawful, Unwise

by Dave Owen | September 26, 2017
On September 25, a group of Member Scholars from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) submitted comments on the Trump administration's proposed rollback of the "waters of the United States" rule (technically, the rollback rule has been issued by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but its support within those agencies comes only from the Trump administration's political appointees). The proposed rule addresses the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act – which means, in non-legal terms, ...

Senate to Hold Confirmation Hearing on Another Round of Industry-Friendly EPA Nominees

by Matt Shudtz | September 19, 2017
UPDATE: The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has rescheduled the confirmation hearing originally slated for Wednesday, September 20. The committee now plans to hold the hearing on Wednesday, October 4. Three influential EPA offices – the Offices of Air, Water, and Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – share a common attribute. Each is at the center of a defining battle over its future. What is the future of climate regulation at EPA? How will the agency define "waters of ...

As Irma Hits Florida, Trump's Risk Is Different from His Neighbors'

by David Flores | September 09, 2017
As Hurricane Irma takes aim at the Florida coast, questions about property and community vulnerabilities abound, including for some of President Donald Trump's properties. A brief analysis by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has found that while Trump's properties, including Mar-a-Lago, face significant risk of damage from the hurricane and from the ongoing impacts of climate change, surrounding neighborhoods and communities will have a much more difficult time rebuilding and recovering from the storm.  Three Trump developments in South ...

You Are No Theodore Roosevelt

by Evan Isaacson | September 05, 2017
Last month, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke submitted his long-anticipated report to President Trump that recommends dismantling and looting some of America's treasured monuments and antiquities. (This was interesting timing, given that the president stood firmly behind the preservation of some other, far less-cherished monuments.) In anticipation of the report, Theodore Roosevelt IV, the 26th president's great-grandson, wrote a letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle telling Zinke that his actions have failed to live up to the legacy ...

200 Days and Counting: Pollution and Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | August 11, 2017
Rolling back EPA regulations is one of the Trump administration's priorities. The most notable example is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut CO2 emissions from power plants. The other rule that has gotten considerable attention is the so-called WOTUS rule, which defines federal jurisdiction to regulate wetlands and watersheds. But these are not the only rules in the crosshairs. EPA has announced plans to reconsider a rule limiting emission of toxic substances from power plants, rules dealing with ...

New Report Shows State Endangered Species Laws Come Up Short in Protecting Imperiled Plants, Animals, Habitats

by Alejandro Camacho | August 04, 2017
In spite of its documented success in conserving vulnerable species and ecosystems, as well as robust and enduring support among American voters, the federal Endangered Species Act has not been spared from calls to devolve funding and authority from the federal government. As this trend has gained increasing support within the 115th Congress and the Trump administration, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is widely expected to introduce legislation that seeks to erode ...

The Trump Deregulatory Agenda: Health, Safety, Environmental, and Consumer Protection Rules in the Crosshairs

by Rena Steinzor | August 02, 2017
Obama's Fall 2016 Versus Trump's Spring 2017 Unified Agendas On July 20, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was going to kill hundreds of rules considered by previous administrations to protect public health, worker and consumer safety, the environment, and working people navigating the financial services marketplace. The Trump Spring 2017 "regulatory agenda" was lengthy and complicated. To understand its full implications, you needed to compare it to the last regulatory agenda issued by the Obama administration in the ...

A Striking About-Face on EPA's Progress in Protecting Us from Chemical Hazards

by Matt Shudtz | August 01, 2017
August is the time for back-to-school shopping, leading parents everywhere on the search for the best deals to fill our kids' backpacks. When that search ends at bargain outlets and dollar stores, though, there is a hidden cost many may not be aware of: the health burden from toxic chemicals in cheap consumer goods. Our chemical safety laws do not do enough to protect our children and families, so public health advocates like the Campaign for Healthier Solutions are putting ...

When Deciding Which Endangered Species to Prioritize, What Role Do Biodiversity and Ecosystem-Level Assessments Play?

by Jarryd Page | July 31, 2017
This post is the second of a pair focused on the challenges facing the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 21st century. You can read the first post here.  In drafting the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), Congress gave explicit attention and priority, and therefore funding, to individual species. Rather than approaching species conservation through a more holistic consideration of a species' importance within its ecological community, giving broader attention to biodiversity, or looking ...

Does Species Triage Make Sense for the Fish and Wildlife Service?

by Jarryd Page | July 31, 2017
This post is the first of a pair focused on the challenges facing the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 21st century. You can read the second post here. Imagine yourself in a sinking ship. The water is rising quickly. Around you are 20 unique, precious artifacts, among the last of their kind to exist on Earth. You only have the capacity to rescue 10 pounds of these objects – if you try to take on ...

Trump's Deregulatory Agenda Is an Assault on Climate-Threatened Communities

by David Flores | July 27, 2017
Late last week, we shared our first take on how the Trump administration's 2017 deregulatory agenda threatens to knock the wheels off of agency efforts to protect workers, consumers, and vulnerable populations – like children and homeless families – from air pollution, flooding, and explosions in the workplace, among other hazards. After some additional research, we have also found that the administration's agenda takes aim at safeguards for victims of disasters, such as communities that face the threat of displacement ...

Trump's Unified Agenda: Sending the Energy Sector Back to the Dark Ages

by Hannah Wiseman | July 26, 2017
President Trump's first Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, released last week, aims to cut regulations across the board, but the broad swath of energy programs and regulations under the ax is particularly notable. The U.S. energy sector, finally catching up with the rest of the world, has modernized by leaps and bounds in recent years with the help of limited but targeted governmental support. But Trump's agenda would bring this all to an abrupt halt and send us ...

Pending House Bill Would Drastically Limit State Protections for Public Health, Safety, Environment

by Emily Hammond | July 25, 2017
The newest dangerous proposal filtering through Congress is H.R. 2887, the "No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017." Packaged as a prohibition on states regulating outside of their borders, the bill is a Trojan horse that usurps the states' role in the federal system and threatens their ability to protect their own citizens from harm. The House Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law is taking up the bill in a hearing today, July 25, ...

Regulatory Policy

When it comes to health, safety and the environment, executive branch enforcement of the law has become yet another arena to fight and re-fight policy battles presumably settled in Congress. In particular, regulated entities, including companies that pollute or  make potentially dangerous products, spend millions working to block, delay, and unravel such protections.

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015