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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Focused on Getting 'Back to Basics' or Slashing and Burning Our Environmental Protections?

by Brian Gumm | November 06, 2017
In an article just published in the Environmental Law Institute's Environmental Law Reporter, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Bob Sussman examines the tenure of Administrator Scott Pruitt thus far. I recently talked with Mr. Sussman about Pruitt's so-called "back to basics" approach at EPA, the rollbacks of environmental protections he has overseen so far, and Pruitt's numerous favors for special interests.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has made a big deal out of his "back to basics" mantra at the ...

Dear Congress: EPA's TSCA Implementation Has Gone Awry

by Katie Tracy | October 19, 2017
Individuals across the United States encounter hundreds of chemical substances every day and often simultaneously – in common household and hygiene products, in our food and drinking water, and in our air. Some of these chemicals present serious risks to our health and the environment and a heightened risk of harm for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. To this day, we are largely unprotected from all manner of chemical exposures, including chemicals widely known ...

Foreseeable Yet Lamentable: Pruitt's Attack on Carbon Restrictions

by Daniel Farber | October 10, 2017
An earlier version of this post appeared on Legal Planet. Few things were more foreseeable than the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The administration was never going to leave in place a regulation that disfavored coal and promoted the use of renewable energy in electricity generation. The only real questions were when and how. Today, the administration is taking the first step with the release of a proposed rule repealing the CPP. EPA is relying wholly ...

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 ...

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 ...

The Unclean Water Rule

by Evan Isaacson | July 13, 2017
This post builds from an interview with the author for WYPR's The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton, a portion of which aired on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. One question I've been asked a number of times over the last several years is, "What does the Clean Water Rule mean for the Chesapeake Bay?" With EPA's recent proposal to repeal the rule, I'm once again hearing questions and speculation about what this repeal will mean for the Bay watershed. I ...

Trump's EPA Budget Plan Would Harm Many Everyday Americans

by Joel Mintz | July 11, 2017
Imagine that a hostile foreign power covertly manipulated our democracy and government to impose on Florida and other coastal states heightened risks of catastrophic sea level rise and an intensification of hurricanes, floods, droughts, and diseases carried by insects and parasites. Suppose, too, that the same foreign government then set about to demolish the work of American institutions that prevent serious diseases and avoidable deaths to our people. Without doubt, we would regard those acts as threats to our national ...

Trump's Nominee for Top EPA Enforcement Lawyer Set to Testify. Here's What We Want to Know.

by Matt Shudtz | June 12, 2017
Susan Bodine, an attorney with significant experience on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is President Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the agency. She is likely to get a friendly audience tomorrow when she appears before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to answer questions about the future of OECA. After all, she's worked closely with everyone on the panel, and there remain some aspects of federal ...

LA Times Op-Ed: EPA Scientists Said Ban the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos. Scott Pruitt Said No

by Carl Cranor | June 08, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. Miners carried canaries into coal mines; if the canary died, it was an early warning of the presence of toxic gases that could also asphyxiate humans or explode. The Trump administration has decided to use children and farmworkers as 21st century canaries, continuing their exposure to a pesticide named chlorpyrifos that has been linked to serious health concerns. The toxicity of this commonly used pesticide was demonstrated in early May when ...

Trump Cuts and the EPA: Making America Less Healthy Again

by Joel Mintz | March 27, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The South Florida Sun Sentinel. The most drastic cut in President Donald Trump's recently released budget outline is to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency tasked by law with setting and enforcing national standards to limit water, air, and land pollution; conducting scientific research to protect our health and the environment; and assisting state and local governments in reducing pollution. Even as the tasks assigned to it by Congress have multiplied over the years, the EPA's budget has ...

Trumping Innovation

by Joseph Tomain | March 21, 2017
Yale economist William Baumol has written extensively on the connection between innovation and economic productivity. He has demonstrated that the United States has long been committed to promoting innovation, and through innovation, virtuous circles of economic growth are created. Unfortunately, the current administration appears committed to curtailing, even stopping, that growth. The president's first budget has many targets. One, though, directly contradicts Baumol's research and, more problematically, directly contradicts the U.S. Constitution. From the Founding, it has been a fundamental ...

As EPA Embarks on Dangerous Experiment in Federalism, How Will States Respond?

by Evan Isaacson | March 20, 2017
In the early 1970s, Congress passed the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act on nearly unanimous votes. The overwhelming support for these new laws reflected not only the horrific condition of America’s air, water, and landscape at the time, but also an appreciation of the collective action problem states faced, necessitating federal action. The major environmental laws that passed in the following years were predicated on the need to set a federal floor for environmental standards in order to ...

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