Amy Sinden and Lena Pons explained in this space on Friday morning how the White House’s fuel economy deal with the auto industry bypassed the rulemaking process and the agency experts charged with determining the “maximum feasible” standard under the law. Late Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, joined the fray, promising an investigation of the process. (And we didn’t even know he was a reader of CPRBlog!)
Chairman Issa’s notion that the deal between the White House and automakers was too stringent is absurd, of course. But his stated concern about “the agreement’s lack of transparency, the failure to conduct an open rulemaking process” is absolutely correct.
There’s not much room for doubt that Mr. Issa’s real interest here is in weakening the fuel economy standards, and the administrative process argument is just the tool at hand.
But there’s a lesson here for the White House: By circumventing the rulemaking process in favor of a backroom deal, the Administration left itself vulnerable to Issa and others who will seize on any procedural failing to try to block progress on fuel economy standards. You follow the administrative process because you’re vulnerable to a challenge if you don’t. The irony is that the White House thought getting a deal with the automakers was exactly what they needed to make the plan a done deal. Darrell Issa is going to try to make the opposite the reality.Full text
Let’s go on a road trip. Whether it’s the beach or the mountains, we all know what going on a road trip means: great memories, possible adventure, time to mosey around the country we love. The Chamber of Commerce is also planning a road trip this summer, headed by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Andrew Card, George W. Bush’s former chief of staff. But fun and relaxation are not on the itinerary. Regulations that could protect our children are.
At ThinkProgress, CPR Member Scholar Sid Shapiro explained why the anti-regulation roadshow is ridiculous because of all the myths and misinformation it’s designed to promote. He’s right, of course, but, as a mother, I want to add another perspective. I’m tired of the well-worn refrain that “excessive” regulations “suck the vitality” out of the economy. Not only is the claim false, but it completely ignores all the time, money, and energy caregivers would save if we didn’t have to be on the lookout for toxics in our food and consumer products – the results of inadequate regulation.
Senator Bayh and Mr. Card, have you gone shopping for sippy cups lately? Have you purchased canned food, wondering if the linings contain BPA? Do you bite your tongue when a well-meaning teacher gives your child a plastic toy for good work from the “prize box”? Do you wonder if you need to replace your water pipes? Do you spend hours on the Internet researching safe products, or do you feel guilt because you have given up?Full text
Last week, the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy published New Directions in Environmental Law, a symposium issue featuring articles from six CPR Member Scholars. The articles explore how lessons learned from first generation environmental statutes should be applied to future legislation in order to accomplish the original goals of the environmental movement.
Thanks to a strong ruling from a federal judge in Baltimore Wednesday, large poultry companies are one step closer to being held accountable for the pollution (manure) the small farms that grow chickens for them generate. Responsibility: it’s not just for the little guys anymore.
In March, several environmental groups in Maryland sued Perdue Farms, Inc. and Hudson Farm, a chicken farm that raises Perdue’s chickens, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. (I blogged earlier about the political brouhaha that erupted here.) Samples taken on five different occasions from a ditch flowing from Hudson Farm showed excessive levels of fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen, phosphorus, and ammonia. Agriculture is the largest source of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, contributing an estimated 38 percent of the nitrogen and 45 percent of the phosphorous.
The groundbreaking suit not only targeted the specific geographic source of the pollution – Hudson Farm and its stockpiles of uncovered poultry manure – but it also alleged that Perdue, a poultry company with $4 billion in sales annually, was responsible for the mess as well. The court rightly rejected Perdue’s argument that it should be dismissed from the lawsuit because it was a poultry integrator – not a grower – and was, the company asserted, not required to obtain a discharge permit under the Clean Water Act.Full text
We'll have more on the specifics in the future. But for now it's worth noting that one of the amendments takes away EPA’s authority to write permits for nonpoint sources, a much-needed tool in EPA’s toolbox to bolster accountability if the states fail to address nonpoint source pollution.
It’s too bad that, once again, the agricultural interests who collectively constitute the largest source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay want to avoid accountability.Full text
Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will discuss Senator Cardin’s Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 (S. 1816), along with a suite of other bills to protect the great waterways of the United States.
Critically, the bill codifies the Bay-wide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), requiring it to be implemented and enforced. To remedy the pervasive lack of accountability in prior Bay restoration agreements, the bill requires states to submit biennial progress reports and to commit to fulfilling biennial milestones and empowers the EPA to withhold funds, develop and administer a federal implementation plan, or require new or expanding dischargers to acquire offsets that result in a net decrease of pollution. The bill makes progress in other significant areas, including:
If I remember my Sunday School lessons correctly, “clean living” should result in a lot of good things in addition to a heavenly reward: a strong character, an orderly home, and a healthy body and environment. Ironically for the Amish, a clean living group if there ever was one, clean living also produces dirty waters.
As yesterday’s New York Times article reminds us, Amish farms in Lancaster county generate more than 61 million pounds of manure a year – much of which ends up in waterways that run straight into the Chesapeake Bay. Dealing with the farmers in Lancaster county is a challenge: How do you encourage a population that resists change to adopt new farming practices? Impose stronger regulations? Do what we usually do with farmers, which is to pay them using grant dollars to change?
The challenge is even greater when you consider how strongly the Amish value self-sufficiency and distrust government. Unlike many who loudly profess such values, the Amish practice what they preach: they live genuinely self-sustainable lives, and they don’t take government benefits, refusing even Social Security. I was struck in the article by a farmer declaring he had vowed never to take a government grant – quite a different mindset from our culture of subsidies for agribusiness, corporate welfare, and bank bailouts.Full text
We’ve all seen the dramatic headlines recently concerning large-scale environmental disruptions, including a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf and mining disasters killing workers from West Virginia to China. Meanwhile, in Congress, climate change bills are proposed, altered, weakened, and eventually shelved, and the United States still fails to take action on climate change. CPR’s Member Scholars march forward, however, proposing reforms that range from creating transparency in agency decisions to protecting animal migrations. Below is a quick overview of some of their recent publications.
The proverbial poop has hit the fan in Maryland this month after two environmental groups – the Assateague Coastal Trust and the Waterkeeper Alliance – sued Perdue Farms, Inc. and Hudson Farm, a Perdue-contract chicken factory farm in Berlin, Maryland, for violating the Clean Water Act. Water sampling from ditches next to Hudson Farm found high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli. Phosphorus and nitrogen – nutrients killing the Chesapeake Bay – were also found.
The two environmental groups are represented by pro bono student attorneys at the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law (where I was once a student; I should also note that CPR President Rena Steinzor is the former director of the clinic). The groundbreaking suit not only takes on a chicken farmer, it also targets Perdue – which contracts with farms throughout the state to raise the chickens it processes.
Perdue’s response? To cry "fowl," pardon the pun, of course. Instead of just fighting the lawsuit fair and square in court, Perdue also took its ruffled feathers to the Maryland General Assembly, pressing it to muzzle the student attorneys and send a message to the clinic. Perdue’s claims that the sky is falling have apparently worked. Last week, budget language approved by the Maryland Senate included a provision ordering the law school to produce a list of the clients it has represented over the last two years or lose funding – $250,000 in one version, $750,000 in another. Students take note: this is what happens when you take on the nation’s third-largest poultry company with $4.6 billion in sales annually.Full text
Tuesday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an Interim Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, a group charged by President Obama in Executive Order 13514 to develop (by Fall 2010) recommendations for the federal government for adapting to climate change. More than 20 federal agencies, departments, and offices are participating in the task force.
The progress report notes that some agencies are taking action toward implementing programs and policies to deal with the changes and risks climate change will bring. But it also notes many significant gaps remain, including: