The Hill Op-ed: Justice Dept's Enforcement Policies Make Change for the Worse

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2018

This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wasted little time portraying himself as the prosecutor-in-chief of street — as opposed to white collar — crime, rejecting this month even a broadly bipartisan effort to reduce sentences for nonviolent crime supported by a coalition that spans the Koch brothers and the NAACP.

Civil enforcement has also fallen off, as documented in investigative reporting by The New York Times and others. Both trends will almost certainly continue given the more subtle sabotage of corporate enforcement implemented in a series of largely overlooked policy changes announced by memoranda and speech.

The campaign began last June, when Sessions wrote a memorandum to U.S. attorneys and DOJ senior managers instructing them not to enter into any settlements that provide for a "payment or loan to any non-governmental entity." His targets were the nonprofit groups enlisted to provide counseling of consumers in foreclosure under multi-billion dollar civil settlements with the nation's biggest banks. A small portion of the huge sums collected by these consent decrees was devoted to this grassroots work by legal aid attorneys and homeowner counseling groups.

Bank executives didn't articulate objections to this funding. But retiring House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) claims that such payments amount to a "slush fund" accumulated by the Obama administration to pay off its cronies on the left. The ...

Why the Upcoming Release of EPA 'Expectations' for the Bay Plan Is Worth Watching

by Evan Isaacson | February 19, 2018
Anyone who's ever been to an organizational retreat can tell you that the worst fate any plan can suffer is to sit on a shelf, unused and collecting dust. The Chesapeake Bay restoration effort is one of the most complex and sophisticated environmental restoration plans ever created. But despite all the resources and energy that have been brought to bear under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) initiative, the tie that binds it all together is simply the ...

The Environmental Injustice of Declining Budgets for Water Infrastructure

by Evan Isaacson | February 15, 2018
This year more than most, it bears repeating that a budget is a moral document, or at least that it has moral implications. It's particularly important to remember not just because President Trump's budget is so appallingly skewed in favor of military spending – this looks to be one pricey parade – but also because of the administration's puzzling infrastructure proposal.  It is no surprise that the Trump administration would craft an infrastructure plan heavily tilted toward the shiny objects ...

The Ninth Circuit, the Clean Water Act, and Septic Tanks

by Dave Owen | February 15, 2018
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. Last week, the Ninth Circuit decided Hawai'i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, a case involving Maui County's practice of pumping wastewater into wells, from which the wastewater flowed through a subsurface aquifer and into the Pacific Ocean. The county, according to the court, needed a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for this practice. It did not matter that the county's wastewater traveled through groundwater on its way to the ocean; ...

CPR's Emily Hammond Testifies About Health and Economic Benefits of Clean Air Act Regulation

by Matt Shudtz | February 14, 2018
It was an early holiday present to the nation's biggest polluters. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in early December that he was drastically changing the way EPA reviews polluters' compliance – or lack thereof – with the Clean Air Act. Today on Capitol Hill, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond will explain that this dramatic shift in policy is a complete abnegation of EPA's statutory responsibilities and, beyond that, puts lives and economic opportunity at risk. Professor Hammond is testifying before ...

Is the Farm "Safety Net" Safe?

by Laurie Ristino | February 08, 2018
This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill. Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate. The ...

Outer Continental Shelf Shell Game Leaves Florida's Coastline More at Risk for Drilling

by Alyson Flournoy | February 06, 2018
On January 4, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released its draft proposed program for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The proposed plan would end a broad ban on drilling imposed by President Obama and allow leasing and drilling on over 98 percent of the OCS, including the waters off Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico is subject to a congressional moratorium until 2022, but the new plan would commence sales ...

CPR Letter Calls On Trump Labor Department to Withdraw Tipping Rule Proposal Due to Suppressed Analysis

by Katie Tracy | February 05, 2018
Today, six CPR Member Scholars and staff members sent a letter to the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, calling on the agency to withdraw its proposal to repeal an Obama-era rule aimed at preventing employers from taking workers' hard-earned tips. Last week, Bloomberg Law uncovered a deliberate effort by the DOL to conceal an analysis showing that the proposal would allow business owners and managers to steal and misappropriate billions of dollars – that's "billions" with a ...

County Prosecutor in Washington State Indicts Construction Company Owner for Trench Collapse Death

by Katie Tracy | February 01, 2018
On the morning of January 26, 2016, Seattle police were called to a construction site where a worker, Harold Felton, was trapped in a collapsed trench. By the time officers arrived, the rescue operation had turned into a recovery; Felton, 36, had died at the scene.  Felton was working as part of a two-man team employed by Alki Construction to replace a sewer line. According to the police report, 10 minutes before the trench collapsed, the man working alongside Felton ...

Government and Bureaucracy Play Essential, Fundamental Roles in American Life

by James Goodwin | January 31, 2018
President Trump's first State of the Union address contained numerous outrageous claims and statements, rendering a full dissection and critique practically impossible. Many have already singled out one line of the speech as worthy of particular condemnation, so I'll add mine. Early on, Trump made this statement to the rapturous applause of his conservative allies in Congress: "In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life." This claim is not only ...

What Creates the Cost, Mr. President?

by Matthew Freeman | January 31, 2018
During the State of the Union address last night, no one was surprised to hear President Trump brag about all the work his administration has done slashing regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and financial security. It’s clearly one of his proudest first-year accomplishments — making us all less safe and more vulnerable to industries that profit by polluting the air and water, creating unsafe working conditions, using underhanded financial practices, or selling dangerous products. The president thinks that ...

Breaking the Law: Many Trump Regulatory Rollbacks and Delays Are Unlawful

by Bill Funk | January 30, 2018
Progressives have rightfully taken issue with the Trump administration's policy goals, from immigration to the environment, from health care to worker safety. Given the president's decidedly unprogressive stances, one should not be surprised at the policy reversals from the prior administration. One might be surprised, however, and dismayed as well, at the cavalier disregard that the administration has shown for the law, both substantive and procedural.  For example, President Trump's earlier executive orders on the "Muslim ban" were overturned not ...

The Congressional Review Act: Trump's First-Year Participation Trophy

by James Goodwin | January 29, 2018
Perhaps because he has so few real accomplishments to his name, President Donald Trump has developed a nasty habit of embellishing his record. From the size of the crowd at his inauguration to the number of floors in Trump Tower, he simply won't let a little thing like "reality" or "facts" or even "cardinal numbers" get in the way of his estimation of his own self-worth. Expect this behavior to be on full display at tomorrow night's State of the ...

Looking Back on a Year of Trump's Regulatory 'Fire and Fury'

by Matt Shudtz | January 26, 2018
Next Tuesday, President Trump will share his view of the state of our union. And if his words correlate with his actions over the last year, the dominant theme will be one of division and disruption. Like no president in recent history, Donald Trump has pushed U.S. residents to cordon ourselves off into dueling tribes whose theories of governance and policymaking diverge and whose basic facts and language are starting to split in disturbing ways. But on whichever side of ...

Trump, EPA, and the Anti-Regulatory State

by Daniel Farber | January 25, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a central instrument of the modern regulatory state. Whether from the perspective of environmental protection or regulatory economics, 2017 has not been a good year. Experience to date under the Trump Administration is suggestive of industry capture or reflexive ideological opposition to regulation—or both. A multitude of deregulatory actions have occurred. Unfortunately, nearly all of the traditional sources of checks on political leadership—centralized regulatory ...

Implications of the Supreme Court's Clean Water Rule/WOTUS Ruling

by Dave Owen | January 22, 2018
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. Today, the United States Supreme Court decided National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, a case determining whether challenges to the "Clean Water Rule" or "Waters of the United States Rule" should be heard in federal district court or in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The answer, the Supreme Court unanimously held, is federal district court, and the Court remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit to ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018
This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues. President Obama once referred to the current (2014) ...

Turning Power Over to States Won't Improve Protection for Endangered Species

by Alejandro Camacho | January 11, 2018
Professor Michael Robinson-Dorn of the University of California, Irvine co-authored this article with Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and University of California, Irvine Professor Alejandro Camacho. It originally appeared in The Conversation on January 11, 2018. Since the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973, the U.S. government has played a critical role in protecting endangered and threatened species. But while the law is overwhelmingly popular with the American public, critics in Congress are proposing to significantly reduce federal ...

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