Key Environmental Developments Ahead in 2016

by Daniel Farber | January 04, 2016

Here are seven of the most important developments affecting the environment.

2015 was a big year for agency regulations and international negotiations. In 2016, the main focal points will be the political process and the courts. Here are seven major things to watch for. 

The Presidential Election. The election will have huge consequences for the environment. A Republican President is almost sure to try to roll back most of the environmental initiatives of the Obama Administration, undoing all the progress that has been made on climate change and other issues – and we might also see efforts to undo earlier environmental legislation.

The Senate. No one seems to think that control of the House of Representatives is at issue in this year’s election, but control of the Senate is potentially in play. If Republicans win the Presidency and keep both houses of Congress, we’re likely to see major efforts to undo earlier environmental laws. With a Democrat in the White House, Senate control would provide more leverage against a Republican House.

The Clean Power Plan. This regulation is the key to federal climate policy. It seems almost certain to go to the Supreme Court, but that might not happen until 2017. In the meantime, we’ll see what the D.C. Circuit does, beginning early in the year when the court decides whether to issue a stay.

WOTUS. WOTUS – for the benefit of the uninitiated, that’s Waters of the United States – is a rule ...

Feds Resolve to Expand Criminal Prosecutions of Workplace Safety Violations in the New Year

by Katie Weatherford | December 22, 2015
As the year draws to a close and the New Year approaches, people all around the world will be contemplating what they can resolve to do better in 2016. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be celebrating the tradition as well. In a move akin to a “New Year’s Resolution” to do better by workers, the two agencies have just announced that they will be expanding their “worker endangerment initiative” to bolster ...

The Paris Agreement and Theories of Justice

by Alice Kaswan | December 21, 2015
As we seek to understand and assess the Paris Agreement over the coming months and years, we will continue to contemplate the critical underlying political and ethical question: who should be responsible?  And to what degree should that responsibility take the form of direct action versus providing support in the form of financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building?  As my Center for Progressive Reform colleague Noah Sachs has observed, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) has been a consistent ...

CPR's Shudtz on the Silica Rule

by Matt Shudtz | December 21, 2015
This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it was sending its final version of a long-awaited rule on silica dust in the workplace to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for final review. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz responded to the news with the following statement: Workers across the United States have been waiting for this day for a long time. But don’t overlook the fact that this announcement simply marks a procedural accomplishment in a ...

Now is the Time to Restore MDE Enforcement Resources

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2015
A few months ago, I recounted the recent history of budget cuts to Maryland environmental agencies and their effect on the state of environmental inspections and enforcement in the state over the last two decades.  Fortunately, it appears that an opportunity to change this situation has presented itself to policymakers in Annapolis.  Recently, at the annual November meeting of the legislative Spending Affordability Committee, key lawmakers from the budget committees and House and Senate Leadership heard from the top legislative ...

VapeMentors, the Fat Cat Vapor Shop, and Cosmic Fog Vapors All Walk Into an Obscure White House Office...

by James Goodwin | December 16, 2015
This week appears to mark the end of an extraordinary period in the history of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the shadowy bureau charged with reviewing and revising pending agency rules, which too often ensures they are not overly inconvenient for affected industries.  For the last month and a half, a Mos Eisley-esque mélange of characters has streamed through the front doors to lobby OIRA’s gang of economists and political operatives over a pending rule that would ...

Does the Paris Agreement Open the Door to Geoengineering?

by Daniel Farber | December 15, 2015
If we're serious about keeping warming "well below" 2°C, geoengineering may be necessary. The Paris agreement establishes an aspirational goal of holding climate change to 1.5°C, with a firmer goal of holding the global temperature decrease “well below” 2°C. As a practical matter, the 1.5°C goal almost certainly would require geoengineering, such as injecting aerosols into the stratosphere or solar mirrors. Even getting well below 2°C is likely to require steps of that kind or a technological breakthrough for another ...

Stocktaking and Ratcheting After Paris

by Noah M Sachs | December 10, 2015
In the latest draft treaty text from Thursday evening in Paris two contentious issues seem to be resolved: how often the agreement will be reviewed after it is adopted (“stocktaking”) and whether the reviews should involve ever-more-stringent commitments by the parties (“ratcheting”). The background here is that the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made so far by 185 countries are voluntary, and they have varying levels of ambition.    Most countries committed to fulfill their promised reductions by 2030, but some countries, including the ...

At Senate Hearing, CPR's Verchick Provides Sole Voice of Reason on Flawed 'Regulatory Budgeting' Proposal

by James Goodwin | December 09, 2015
This morning, CPR President and Loyola University, New Orleans, Law Professor Robert R.M. Verchick testifies at a hearing convened by the Senate Budget Committee to examine a dangerous regulatory policy proposal known as “regulatory budgeting.” As he explains in his testimony, regulatory budgeting represents a stark departure from the traditional focus of regulatory policy discussions, which have long been concerned with improving the effectiveness—or quality—of regulatory decision-making. Regulatory budgeting, by contrast, makes the total number—or quantity—of regulations the primary focus, ...

What Will 'Common But Differentiated Responsibility' Mean After Paris?

by Noah M Sachs | December 09, 2015
Here at the UN climate summit is Paris, negotiators are hashing out the new meaning of an old term: common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). CBDR has been a bedrock principle of climate negotiations since 1992. It was the basis for dividing the world into two camps: 37 developed nations that had binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and the rest of the world. There are many definitions for CBDR, but the best one I’ve heard was given by former Undersecretary ...

FDA and the Future of 'Frankenfish'

by Mollie Rosenzweig | December 07, 2015
If you've come across one of the ads, newspaper stories, or opinion pieces from Chuck Norris in the past week warning you about frankenfish, you can thank the FDA. In mid-November, the FDA made history by approving the first genetically engineered (GE) animal for human consumption, Atlantic salmon from the company AquaBounty. Not only has the approval process failed to win over skeptics, exposing the weaknesses in the current legal regime that governs plants and animals developed through biotechnology, it raises important questions ...

Maryland Deregulatory Commission Targets Protective Bay Regulations

by Evan Isaacson | December 04, 2015
Politicians are famous for reneging on, or conveniently ignoring, campaign pledges and other promises.  In some cases, politicians put themselves in untenable positions, such as when they offer conflicting promises to different interest groups.  This is when it becomes easy to see what an elected official’s true priorities are.  Governor Hogan proclaimed that he would be “the best environmental governor that’s ever served.”  Of course, he also campaigned for “regulatory reform” in Maryland.  The Governor established a Regulatory Reform Commission ...

Blankenship Convicted in Massey Coal Mine Disaster

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2015
Justice was done today by a hard-working jury in West Virginia that convicted Don Blankenship of conspiracy to obstruct federal mine safety rules.  This conspiracy was the primary cause of an enormous explosion that killed 29 men in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.  Although the jury was not presented with the question of whether Blankenship was directly responsible for the explosion, it did decide that he played Russian roulette with miners’ lives.  By underfunding efforts to comply with and harassing ...

Obama’s ‘Path to Progress’ Looking Forward: Much to Do and Little Time to Do It

by James Goodwin | December 02, 2015
In a post last week, I noted that, over the last year, the Obama Administration has finalized all or part of several of the 13 regulatory actions highlighted in a 2014 Center for Progressive Reform report challenging the President to focus renewed energy during the remainder of his term on securing critical new protections for people and the environment. But the President’s to-do list isn’t finished, and for the remaining regulatory actions on the list, progress has been modest or, in some cases, ...

Support CPR on Giving Tuesday

by Robert Verchick | December 01, 2015
In August I commemorated the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by pedaling along the self-guided "Levee Disaster Bike Tour." I began beneath the muscular oaks along New Orleans' Bayou St. John and threaded my way around potholes and waterfowl to pay my respects at three prominent levee-breach sites.  The ride gave me a chance to reflect on many problems that my adopted hometown of New Orleans faces, as well as countless opportunities for improving the policies that will take advantage of ...

One Year In, the Administration’s ‘Path to Progress’ Benefits American People and Environment

by James Goodwin | November 24, 2015
From the moment they secured majorities in both chambers, congressional Republicans have made no secret of their intention to launch an all-out, guerilla warfare-style campaign against the federal government — and even the very notion of governance itself. Accordingly, they have pursued a strategy of salt-the-earth sabotage designed to spread like a communicable disease the dysfunction that has long characterized the legislative branch to the executive branch. Given the unrepentant nihilism, many political observers were quick to pen their epitaphs for ...

What’s on the Labor Department’s Regulatory Agenda?

by Katie Weatherford | November 23, 2015
Late last week, the White House released its fall 2015 Unified Agenda—the semi-annual report on regulations under development or review by each federal agency. As usual, and therefore of little surprise, this latest agenda spells delay for a laundry list of critical safeguards at several agencies. According to CPR senior analyst James Goodwin’s review of the regulatory agendas for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and several other agencies, several new protections will be delayed anywhere from ...

Fall 2015 Regulatory Agenda is Out; Clock is Ticking

by James Goodwin | November 20, 2015
Opponents of safeguards are fond of decrying what they claim is a regulatory system out of control, churning out rules at a break-neck pace.  It’s not difficult to refute  this claim when the president releases the twice-annual regulatory agenda, which spells out all the active rulemakings that are currently pending and the expected time Each of these new delays should be of great concern, since they translate into real costs to the public interest.  The costs might be measured in ...

Midnight Regulations, Shmidnight Shmegulations

Goodwin | Feb 12, 2016 | Regulatory Policy

Politico Examines the Obama Legacy

Freeman | Feb 11, 2016 | Regulatory Policy

Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

Flatt | Feb 10, 2016 | Energy

New CPR Analysis: Chesapeake Bay TMDL Failure Looms

Freeman | Feb 04, 2016 | Chesapeake Bay

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