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Becoming an Environmentalist on the Neches River

Growing up in Port Neches, Texas, long before anyone ever hear of Earth Day, it was not hard to be an environmentalist. 

When my father announced that the family would be moving to Port Neches, he tried to soften the blow to his 13-year-old son by stressing the fact that we would be living across the street from the city park and that the Neches River ran along one end of the park.  For the remainder of the summer, I could go fishing any time I wanted.

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CPR Announces Appointment of New President: Robert R.M. Verchick

Rena Steinzor Steps Down after Seven Years at Helm, Succeeded by Loyola 
University New Orleans College of Law Professor, Former EPA Official 

 

The board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform today announced the appointment of Robert R.M. Verchick to be the organization’s third president, succeeding Rena Steinzor, who has served in the post for the past seven years.

Verchick holds the Gauthier~St. Martin Eminent Scholar Chair in Environmental Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, and is also the Faculty Director of Loyola’s Center for Environmental Law. In addition, he is a Senior Fellow in Disaster Resilience Leadership at Tulane University. He is an expert in climate change law, disaster law, and environmental regulation. In 2009 and 2010, he served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In that role he helped develop climate adaptation policy for the EPA and served on President Obama's Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. In the fall of 2012, he researched climate adaptation policies in India as a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, supported by a Fulbright Award.

Verchick succeeds Professor Rena Steinzor of the University of Maryland’s Carey School of Law, who has served in the post since January of 2008. Steinzor continues as a Member Scholar of the organization.

“Rob Verchick is the ideal choice to be CPR’s next president,” Steinzor said in announcing the transition. “He brings a wealth of policy experience — in government and in academia, and more than that he brings the energy, talent, and enthusiasm to the task that I know will make him a great success. I’ve enjoyed my work as President of CPR more than words can express, and I’m particularly proud to have been able to guide the organization to the point that a second generation of organizational leaders, led by Rob, is now taking on the challenge of guiding the organization. That’s a milestone for us, as it would be for any organization.”

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CPR Member Scholars Call on Congress to Reject 'Unnecessary' and 'Unwise' REINS Act

This morning, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a markup on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015, or REINS Act (H.R. 427).  Even among the many extreme antiregulatory bills that Congress has considered this session, the REINS Act still stands out for its breathtaking audacity.  If enacted, this bill would block the most important environmental, safety, and public health regulations from taking effect unless Congress affirmatively approves them within the extraordinarily short period of 70 session days or legislative days.  It is not a stretch to say that many regulations that are now benefitting millions of Americans—such as those limiting lead in gasoline or requiring air bags in automobiles—would never have seen the light of day had the REINS Act been in place.  Versions of this bill have been introduced in both chambers of Congress over the last several sessions, but fortunately none have been enacted into law.

In response to this bill, 83 of the nation’s leading experts on administrative law and regulatory policy have signed on to a letter to the members of Congress expressing their concerns with the REINS Act.  Among the concerns described in the letter are that “the REINS Act would replace the strengths of agency rulemaking with the weaknesses of the legislative process” and that the bill is “counter-democratic.”  Twenty-six CPR Member Scholars were among the experts to sign on to the letter.

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Defeating the Public Interest One Bill at a Time: The ALERT Act (H.R. 1759)

 

Background:  Tomorrow, the full House Judiciary Committee will be holding a markup of the H.R. 1759, the All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act of 2015 (ALERT Act), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.).  The House of Representatives considered a similar bill during its last session.  (The hearing is also noteworthy, because the committee will be marking up H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015, or REINS Act.  For more information on the REINS Act, see here.)

What the ALERT Act does:  The bill would impose a series of new burdensome reporting requirements on agencies and the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) regarding the progress and impacts of the agencies’ pending rulemakings.  Once a month, agencies would have to provide detailed information about any rules that they are working on, while OIRA would have to issue an annual report detailing the cumulative costs of all rules that have been proposed or finalized during the previous 12 months.  Agencies also would be blocked from implementing their final rules for at least six months until after they have published certain information about the rules on the internet.

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CPR's Buzbee to Testify at House Hearing on Waters of the US Rule

CPR Scholar and Georgetown University Law School professor William Buzbee testified at a House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Oversight hearing today entitled, Proposed Federal Water Grabs and Their Potential Impacts on States, Water, and Power Users, and Landowners.

The Hearing concerned the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers' proposed "Waters of The US," rule related to water pollution and agriculture.

According to his testimony:

The legal uncertainty of recent years about what are protected federal waters has benefitted no one. For those concerned about protection of America’s waters, regulatory uncertainty has led to regulatory forbearance, problematic or erroneous regulatory and judicial decisions, and increased regulatory costs. By now linking the “waters of the United States” question to peer reviewed science and clarifying which waters are subject to categorical or case-by-case protection and revealing the reasons for such judgments, the Corps and EPA have moved the law in the direction of certainty and clarity. This is an area calling for difficult, expert regulatory judgments. There was a reason for the thirty years of bipartisan consensus in favor of broadly protecting America’s waters. These proposed regulations, if finalized in a substantially similar form but with explanations and changes addressing concerns voiced during the process, could once again bring clarity and stability to the law, while also respecting the protective mandates of the Clean Water Act.

To read the full testimony click here. 

Buzbee also testified on the proposal last year for a House Subcommittee on Small Business Administration Hearing. 

 

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Defusing Blunderbuss Constitutional Attacks on EPA's Proposed Regulation of Existing Power Plants to Abate Climate Change

As climate scientists have been telling us for years, and as all but the most obstinate climate deniers acknowledge, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are contributing to climatic changes.  These changes have taken the form of melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, changes in wind and ocean current patterns, and increases in the frequency of severe weather events, to name but a few effects.  Rising temperatures linked to GHG emissions also exacerbate public health problems associated with the release of more conventional air pollutants, because temperature increases facilitate the formation of tropospheric ozone, which can cause breathing difficulties and cardiovascular problems.  It is not a stretch to characterize climate change as the most challenging environmental problem of our time.

Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has taken important steps to reduce GHG emissions, both in the U.S. and through negotiations with foreign countries such as China.  These steps have included using the authority that Congress vested in the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  Although Congress enacted the CAA decades before human contributions to climate change were broadly recognized, Congress consciously provided EPA with a flexible mandate to address the health and environmental risks linked to air pollution as the agency became aware of them.  In 2007, the Supreme Court concluded that GHGs qualify as “air pollutants” under the CAA, giving EPA the authority to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs from new motor vehicles. After President Obama took office, EPA issued a finding that EPA’s subsequent regulation of GHGs from cars and trucks triggered EPA’s authority under the CAA to regulate GHG emissions from factories and other stationary sources as well.  Once again, the Supreme Court last year ruled that EPA has the power to regulate GHG emissions from stationary sources, at least in some contexts.

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CPR's Winning Safer Workplaces, now in Spanish

Last year, the Center for Progressive Reform published Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State & Local Policy Reform. The manual is intended as a tool for state and local advocates. It highlights successful local campaigns to adopt workplace safety policies, and offers a series of innovative proposals to help state and local advocates make headway even in the face of intense opposition from big-moneyed, anti-regulatory interests. We focused on cross-cutting ideas that will empower workers, ensure crime doesn’t pay, and strengthen the institutions that are meant to protect workers.

Our day-of-release blog post with more information is here.

Since its release, we’ve received positive feedback from many advocates about the manual. Among the suggestions that we heard was that the manual ought to be translated into Spanish. Today, we’re excited to announce that a Spanish-language version of the manual is available on our website.

Credit for this massive endeavor goes to Celeste Monforton for coordinating the translation, along with Nico Udu-Gama, Jazmín Rumbaut, Lucy Acevedo, Tony Macias, and Ximena Camou-Guerrero for thoughtfully interpreting the manual. Their efforts were supported by the Public Welfare Foundation and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law.

Please take a look and share this with your colleagues.

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The Case Against Sulking

States will only lose out if they refuse to cooperate with the Clean Power Plan.

Mitch McConnell has urged states to refuse to submit plans if the Clean Power Plan is upheld by the Court.  He has been accused of inciting lawless behavior on the part of state governments.  Let me come to his defense on this.  (How often do I get to do that??) The states are under no legal obligation to submit plans.  The Clean Air Act does not require them to do so.  Coercing states to administer a federal regulatory program would violate the Constitution, at least as the current Court sees things.  So there’s nothing illegitimate about McConnell exercising his American right of free speech and advising them what to do.  The fact that he’s doing so presumably reflects his own inability as the leader of the Senate to do anything about it.

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EPA's Budget Declines Raise Serious Concerns

When it comes to the size of the federal workforce, most of the rhetoric in Washington revolves around how to cut it. That’s particularly true where Republicans are concerned, and perhaps nowhere truer than with the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite GOP target. What they almost never mention is that cutting staff means making sacrifices in protecting the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, bathe, swim and fish in, and the many individuals—including infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who already suffer from illness—whose health can be severely impaired by environmental pollution.

The recent testimony of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee is a case in point. McCarthy informed the panel that EPA’s staffing has now declined to its lowest level since the late 1980s, now “down in the 14,000s.” “I am trying to work [our] way back up to the 15,000s,” she declared.

In fact, even that would leave staffing well below the agency’s historic high of 18,110 employees in 1999.

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The sky is not falling: FDA proposes common-sense treatment of generic drugs

There must be a global template for business complaints about regulation, located on some secret right-wing server. Just type in the industry and the name of the regulation: Billions of dollars are at stake, companies will be driven out of the industry and consumers will lose access to low-priced products, if the government dares to impose an ordinary, common-sense rule. Such as, making drug companies responsible for the safety of their products?

Aren’t pharmaceutical companies already responsible for warning their customers of known adverse effects? If you answered “yes, of course,” then you missed the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Pliva v. Mensing. Currently, generic drug companies are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use exactly the same labels and warnings as the corresponding brand-name drugs. Therefore, the Court ruled in Mensing, the producer of a generic drug cannot be held responsible for failure to warn customers of known hazards that are not mentioned on the brand-name drug label. This is particularly problematic in the frequent cases where generic drugs drive the brand-name producer out of the market, so that no one is updating the label to reflect new information.

 

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