Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Preparing for Hurricanes Should Not Fall to Ratepayers
by Matt Shudtz | September 20, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun.
The full scope of the heartbreaking devastation wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma — the human, economic and environmental toll — may not be completely understood for years. As we do what we can to help the victims, it is also time to think about how we can prepare for the inevitable here in Baltimore. After all, Baltimore floods more than most other cities in the United States and gets little help from our inadequate water infrastructure.
Every time a major storm visits our region, millions of gallons of sewage overflow from Baltimore's antiquated sewers. Worse, our sewer system has failed time and again under even the smallest rainfalls. In August, federal, state and city regulators and lawyers finalized a deal to modify the legal settlement originally signed in 2002 to upgrade sewer infrastructure by 2016.
The good news is that the projects needed to keep sewage from flowing into our basements and the Inner Harbor are some of the same ones needed to prepare for tropical storms. Modern stormwater management technology provides us with the ability to make our city "spongier" — to absorb rain and slow down polluted runoff before it pools in streets, overwhelms storm drains, damages property and spills into local waters.
But an important question is how we'll pay for the work. Arguably, the primary reason that Baltimore failed to
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 postponed the confirmation hearing originally slated for Wednesday, September 20. The committee has not yet rescheduled the hearing. 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 the United States" given
No Job and No Paycheck After Harvey and Irma
by Katie Tracy | September 15, 2017
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, thousands of Texans and Floridians are out of work, some indefinitely. Without knowing when their employers might reopen for business (if at all) , many are uncertain how they're going to afford their next meal or purchase basic necessities, much less repair their damaged homes and property. At the same time, monthly bills are coming due. Vice News recently shared one Houston family’s gripping story of how Harvey has devastated them financially.
As Irma Hits Florida, Trump's Risk Is Different from His Neighbors'
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
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
Trump Administration Policies Will Make Americans More Vulnerable to Toxic Floodwaters
As the country bears witness to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, a storm unlike any other, the Trump administration's policy of rolling back worker, emergency response, and environmental safeguards will all but ensure that victims of future flooding events will be exposed to toxic contamination. Over just a 36-hour period, an estimated 9 trillion gallons of rainwater deluged Texas, affecting millions and displacing tens of thousands along the Gulf Coast and in Houston. As the rainfall and flooding wear on this week, emergency
As Texas Floods, President Trump Backpedals on Resiliency
With a sense of horror, the nation is watching waters rise in southeastern Texas as now-Tropical Storm Harvey spins across the Gulf Coast. While no individual storm can be attributed to climate change, scientists predict more intense storms, and the wisdom of preparing for future floods has never been clearer. And yet, less than two weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order that rolled back a federal flood standard designed to anticipate intense flooding. Instead of investing in infrastructure
Law Professors from Every Coast Ask SCOTUS to Weigh in on Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Case
Last week, more than two dozen law professors from around the country – many of them CPR Member Scholars – filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging a fresh look at a lower court decision with sweeping implications for the balance of power between states and the federal government. The issue is vital to Louisiana because it affects whether oil and gas companies can be held liable for decades of damage they have done to the state's
Summer: The Season of Sickness for America's Waters
It's that time of year again. No, I don't mean time for back-to-school sales, last-ditch beach getaways, or Shark Week re-runs. Instead, I'm referring to the time of year when we're once again reminded just how sick our waterways are. Every year around this time, we read about massive dead zones and toxic algal blooms infecting large swaths of our nation's inland and coastal waters. The combination of warming water temperatures and fertilizer runoff during the growing season leads to
200 Days and Counting: Pollution and Climate Change
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 Hill Op-Ed: The House Recently Sided with Big Banks over Consumers
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Did you read the fine print when you signed up for your credit card, a loan on your car, or a new checking account? Chances are, you missed an important provision called a "forced arbitration clause." This provision says that if the bank or credit card company has made a mistake it refuses to correct, or even cheated you out of money, you cannot sue to attempt to get your money back. Instead, you
New Report Shows State Endangered Species Laws Come Up Short in Protecting Imperiled Plants, Animals, Habitats
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
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
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?
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?
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
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
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