On Regulatory Reform, It's Now Warren vs. Sunstein

by James Goodwin | April 19, 2016

Several weeks ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered perhaps the most important speech on the U.S. regulatory system in recent memory at a forum on regulatory capture organized by the Administrative Conference of the United States. In it, she described how the regulatory system was not working for the people as it should be – or as Congress had intended. Instead, she described how corporate influence over the regulatory process has become so far-reaching and so overwhelming that it has become fundamentally "tilted" to generate results that favor corporate profit at the expense of crucial safeguards necessary for protecting people and the environment. 

Put differently, Warren's speech described how corporate interests had gone beyond capturing discrete agencies – a phenomenon that policymakers and political scientists have recognized for decades – and now have successfully captured critical components of the process by which agencies do their work. 

This new approach to regulatory capture produces the same results as the traditional conception: substantive policies that advance industry interests at the expense of the public interest. In contrast, though, it is much more insidious – indeed, process capture is nearly impossible for policymakers to observe, let alone for the general public – and it is much more difficult to effectively remedy through policy reforms. 

CPR and others in the public interest community have been working for years to shine a light on this understanding of the regulatory system and draw the attention ...

Chesapeake Bay Program Releases 2015 Watershed Model Estimates

by Evan Isaacson | April 19, 2016
Yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest estimate of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Bay watershed. The annual model run of the program's Watershed Model shows that the estimated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads decreased by three percent, three percent, and four percent, respectively, compared to 2014 levels. These are important improvements, but much work lies ahead to improve water quality in the Bay and boost the fisheries, wildlife, and recreational activities it supports. The estimated decrease in ...

Good News for North Carolina Coasts

by Eric Panicco | April 18, 2016
Eric Panicco, a candidate for Master of Arts in Sustainability at Wake Forest University, is undertaking an independent study for CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro. On August 3 of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan. It was a historic moment for President Obama, one he commemorated by observing, "We're the first generation to feel climate change, and the last one that can do something about it." Should it survive the inevitable court challenge launched ...

In Advocate Op-Ed, Verchick Explores 'Nonstructural' Adaptation to Climate Change in the Gulf Coast

by Matthew Freeman | April 15, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert Verchick has an op-ed in The New Orleans Advocate this morning about Gulf Coast efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re too late to prevent. A New Orleans resident himself, Verchick and his family suffered through Katrina, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the Gulf Coast is “staring down the barrel of climate change.” He writes that in addition to large-scale infrastructure projects like fortifying ...

Mercury, MetLife, and Mountaintop Removal

by Lisa Heinzerling | April 14, 2016
How Justice Scalia's Last Canon Is Unhinging Statutory Interpretation Justice Antonin Scalia was, as much as anything else, known for insisting that the text of a statute alone – not its purposes, not its legislative history – should serve as the basis for the courts' interpretation of the statute. Justice Scalia promoted canons of statutory construction – or at least what he deemed the valid ones – as a way of limiting the power of judges by setting rules for ...

New Paper: Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Communities in Face of Climate Change

by Brian Gumm | April 13, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Paper Showcases Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Gulf Coast Communities in the Face of Climate Change Most Americans understand the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe in the future. But many communities are already feeling the effects of our warming planet. Impacts on the Gulf Coast are particularly challenging. In a new paper released today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) highlights recommendations and best practices for protecting and empowering vulnerable communities ...

Porter Ranch Gas Leak Mitigation Program Shows Hints of EPA NextGen Strategies

by Evan Isaacson | April 11, 2016
Last month, the California Air Resources Board released a draft Aliso Canyon Methane Leak Climate Impacts Mitigation Program. The program comes in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s January 6 proclamation that Southern California Gas be held responsible for mitigating the estimated 100,000 tons of methane released from the gas storage facility at Porter Ranch, which leaked the equivalent of about one-fifth of all other California sources of the powerful greenhouse gas combined over that same period. While this high-profile case ...

No Benefits Allowed? Mercatus Study on Federal Regulation and the States

by James Goodwin | April 08, 2016
Over the last few years, deregulatory advocates have pursued a well-trodden path for advancing their anti-safeguard agenda: Publish a large, glossy "study," replete with impressive mathiness, that purports to measure the impacts of regulation but in fact provides a highly skewed portrayal by consciously ignoring the many benefits that regulations provide. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Last week, the libertarian Mercatus Center did the latest trodding when it released a study that ranked all 50 states (and the ...

Steinzor in The New York Times: Judgment Day for Reckless Executives

by Brian Gumm | April 08, 2016
On April 6, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The mine exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010.  In an April 7 New York Times op-ed, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, ...

Unnatural Disasters and Environmental Injustice

by Christine Klein | April 07, 2016
Originally published on OUPblog by CPR Member Scholars Christine A. Klein and Sandra B. Zellmer. The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit's water supply system and switched to the Flint River. Although residents complained about the water's foul taste, odor, and color, officials assured them that the water ...

Beware of BPA: New Report Finds Toxic Substance Widespread in Canned Foods

by Mollie Rosenzweig | April 06, 2016
Consumers, take note: Last week, Clean Production Action published a troubling new report, Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food, on the presence of toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods. The report, co-written by Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Ecology Center, and Mind the Store Campaign, found BPA in the lining of the majority of canned foods sold by major retailers across the United States and Canada. As the Center for ...

Steinzor Reacts to Blankenship Sentencing

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2016
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Upper Big Branch exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following statement: "Although Mr. Blankenship won't spend much time in jail, an outcome determined by a ...

The Next Justice and the Fate of the Clean Water Act

by Daniel Farber | April 05, 2016
Every once in a while, we get reminded of just how much damage the conservative Justices could wreak on environmental law. Last week, Justice Kennedy created shock waves with a casual comment during oral argument. In a case that seemed to involve only a technical issue about administrative procedure, he dropped the suggestion that the Clean Water Act just might be unconstitutionally vague. It didn't seem to faze him that such a ruling would wipe out a statute that has been on ...

Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform

by Thomas Cluderay | March 31, 2016
Originally published on EnviroBlog by Thomas Cluderay, general counsel, and Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, for the Environmental Working Group. You might think you can’t put a price on protecting public health and the environment. But you’d be wrong – especially if we’re talking about the nation's broken and outdated chemicals law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. We’ve written a lot about how the House and Senate are working to amend this defective law (here, here and here) through negotiations ...

Steinzor, Panel to Explore What Next Administration Will Mean for Public Protections

by Brian Gumm | March 31, 2016
When it comes to public health, the environment, and social justice, Americans are facing a host of challenges that call out for comprehensive, national solutions. Whether it's climate change, threats to water resources like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, or serious injuries and deaths in the workplace, how we respond as a nation has direct impacts on our everyday lives. Strong standards and effective enforcement of our laws and regulations are key to protecting our health and environment, ...

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Communications Director

by Matthew Freeman | March 29, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: CPR Welcomes New Communications Director Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that Brian Gumm has joined the organization as its communications director. Gumm will serve alongside the group’s staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect our health, safety, and environment. “I’m excited to welcome Brian Gumm to our team,” said Matthew Shudtz, executive director of CPR. “CPR’s network of legal experts has incredible insights into the heated national conversations about environmental health, climate change, ...

Green Patches Deep in the Heart of Texas

by Daniel Farber | March 28, 2016
The Texas AG’s office seems to do little else besides battle against EPA, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in the vanguard of anti-environmentalism. Yet even in Texas there are some rays of hope. While Texas is attacking the Clean Power Plan, the city of Houston is leading a coalition of cities defending it. Other cities are taking action for non-environmental reasons. The city of Georgetown, Texas, for instance, has announced plans to become 100 percent renewable. Lest there be any misunderstanding, the ...

Ensuring Accountability and Public Participation in Stormwater Permitting

by Katrina Miller | March 25, 2016
As spring rains approach, the need for more stringent stormwater controls comes into sharper focus. Rain is a life-giver, of course, but in our ever more paved environment, it’s also a conveyance for water pollution. Stormwater runoff in urban areas travels across rooftops, roads, sidewalks and eventually into a municipal storm sewer system, all the while accumulating a cocktail of various pollutants that includes oil residue from roads, pesticides and excess fertilizer from lawns and farms, and more. These pollutants ...

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