Pruitt's Super-Polluting Parting Shot

by Lisa Heinzerling | July 31, 2018

Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

In the fitting last act of his corrupt reign as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt handed a gift to companies who profit from producing cheaper trucks by dispensing with modern pollution control equipment. He arranged for political appointees at EPA to issue memoranda that together promised that EPA would not enforce an existing legal limit on production numbers for the super-polluting trucks.

The memos had all the usual eyesores of Pruitt's approach to governing EPA: disdain for the law, dismissal of scientific evidence, scrambled logic, and contempt for the environmental mission intended for EPA. EPA's case for granting amnesty to the super-polluters was so threadbare that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted an unusual administrative stay of EPA's action while the court was considering a request for a longer stay pending judicial review.

Although Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has since taken back Pruitt's parting gift to industry, the episode remains relevant to assessing EPA's modus operandi in the Trump era. The memos initially committing EPA to a policy of non-enforcement were executed by two powerful officials — Susan Bodine and William Wehrum, both lawyers — who still have positions at EPA. Their willingness to pursue this course despite the departure of their disgraced boss ...

CPR Member Scholar Hammond Brings a Real EPA 'Back to Basics' Lesson to Senate

by James Goodwin | November 14, 2017
Today, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond is testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing that will examine four bills that amount to "rifle shot" attacks on the Clean Air Act's public health and environmental protections. Hammond's testimony before the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee casts in powerful terms what is at stake with these bills, highlighting how they contribute to the Trump administration's own assault on public safeguards. She also explains ...

'Super Polluters' Under the Microscope

by Matthew Freeman | September 30, 2016
In a story published yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity takes a deep dive into the public health impact of the nation’s “super polluters,” a collection of industrial polluters that account for an outsized share of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Produced in collaboration with USA Today and The Weather Channel, the story focuses in on Evansville, Indiana, a city of 120,000 nestled in the southwest corner of the state and ringed by no ...

Federalism Games in the Clean Power Plan Battle

by William Buzbee | September 23, 2016
Next Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear four hours of argument over the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Federalism-linked statutory, regulatory, and doctrinal law has been and will be crucial to the CPP's fate, and several issues of federalism will play a key role. In designing the CPP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency built on states' actions in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in recent years through use of GHG trading regimes, and nudging or ...

The Role of the Clean Air Act's Goals in Clean Power Plan Litigation

by David Driesen | September 08, 2016
The Clean Power Plan has been widely touted as significant because it regulates the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States – the electric power industry. Its significance, however, goes beyond U.S. CO2 emissions because it serves as the linchpin of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in order to avoid dangerous climate disruption. The rule gave the Obama administration sufficient credibility to persuade the Chinese to pledge limits on their own greenhouse gas emissions for ...

The Clean Power Plan: Unpacking the Generation Shifting Issue

by David Driesen | September 08, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Clean Power Plan (CPP) relies, in part, on a pollution reduction strategy – generation shifting – that is at issue in the ongoing lawsuit over the rule. Generation shifting involves increasing use of relatively clean natural gas and renewable energy and reducing use of relatively dirty and expensive coal-fired power plants. Although the technique has lowered power plant emissions significantly in recent years, opponents of the CPP have argued in legal briefs that section ...

The Clean Power Plan: Achieving Clean Air Act Goals with Flexibility and Cleaner Energy

by Hannah Wiseman | July 13, 2016
When Congress extensively amended the Clean Air Act in 1970 to form the air pollution laws that we know today, it spoke in no uncertain terms about the breadth of federal authority in this area while also centrally involving states in the effort to clean up the nation's air. Congress directed the EPA Administrator to list the pollutants "which in his judgment" have "an adverse effect on public health and welfare" and are generated from "numerous or diverse" sources – ...

Heinzerling Calls Out Misleading Cost Claims on Environmental Regulations

by Brian Gumm | April 21, 2016
Lisa Heinzerling, a Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Georgetown University Professor of Law, published a piece this week on The Conversation that explores the ongoing political debate over environmental regulations.  In particular, Heinzerling calls out the often misleading claims about the costs of safeguards that protect our air, water, health, and wild places:  Specifically, the [2010 Small Business Administration regulatory costs] study misinterpreted a World Bank database and drew unsupportable conclusions from it. The study also included the ...

EPA's Long-Delayed Ozone Proposal

by Rena Steinzor | November 26, 2014
How much is it worth to save the life of a grandfather with lung disease or to keep an asthmatic child out of the hospital?  The ozone rule, which EPA proposes today after years of politically motivated delay and while staring down the barrel of a court order, responds to the urgent calls of a gold-standard panel of scientists, who have been pleading with the agency to lower the existing standard of 75 parts per billion to the lower end of ...

Power Plant Regulation and the Rhetoric of Reliability

by Emily Hammond | March 15, 2013
The coal-fired power plant industry has always fought air-emissions standards enacted pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA).  But the industry has increasingly raised the specter of reliability problems, arguing that EPA’s recent “tsunami” of regulations will cause a “train wreck,” forcing companies to retire aging plants so rapidly that lost capacity will outpace the development of new sources.  The result, they maintain, will be such an unmanageable strain on the regional grids that they will have to impose brownouts ...

Six Myths About Climate Change and the Clean Air Act

by Amy Sinden | April 18, 2011
In politics, repeating something over and over again can sometimes make it stick, whether it's true or not. From Reagan’s welfare queens, to the specter of “socialized” medicine leading to imminent communist takeover, these sorts of myths often start on the far right but then move surprisingly far to the center. And as the EPA has begun to move forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, we've seen one of these myths begin to take shape. This ...

Why a Cap-and-Trade System Needs a Regulatory Backstop

by Alice Kaswan | August 26, 2009
As fellow environmental law professors David Schoenbrod and Richard Stewart take their advocacy for market mechanisms and skepticism about regulation public, with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, I thought it was time to speak out in favor of a role for regulation. They claim that the climate change bill that passed the House in July, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (the Waxman-Markey bill), relies too much on “top-down” regulation and not enough ...

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