One Stat That May Help Us Understand Why Bay Progress Continues to Lag

by Evan Isaacson | April 08, 2019

The Chesapeake Bay Program has just compiled its annual data assessing progress toward the watershed-wide pollution reduction target under the Bay restoration framework known as the "Bay TMDL." The bottom line is that recent gains in Bay health could soon be eclipsed by the lagging pace of pollution reductions, with the likely result that the region will fall well short of the Bay TMDL 2025 target date to achieve the reductions needed to restore the Bay's health.

One of the primary causes of this slow pace of progress is that the agencies primarily responsible for Bay restoration simply aren't doing their jobs the way they used to. For example, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) recently released its annual report showing the level of activity enforcing environmental laws. In 2018, the agency reported just 25 actions to enforce the federal Clean Water Act's core regulatory program and the state laws protecting surface waters from illegal pollution.

That's a record low, worse even than the 36 actions in 2017, which itself was a record low after dropping from 61 actions in 2016 and 98 in 2015. It doesn't take complex statistical analysis to see the pattern here. The number of Clean Water Act actions in 2018 was about 75 percent lower than the average between 1999, when the agency began publishing its annual report, and 2015, the year the decline started.

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Shackling EPA Risk Assessment

by Daniel Farber | April 01, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. EPA pollution regulations are based on an assessment of the risks posed by pollutants. This can be a complex scientific judgment. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the agency's scientific advisory board, is pushing for major changes in the way that EPA approaches this analysis. The effect would be to make it much harder for EPA to prove that a risk exists. Currently, risk assessment is based on a "weight of the evidence" approach ...

Trump on the Environment: A Study in Falsehood

by Daniel Farber | March 29, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The Washington Post has a list of false statements by Trump, which turns out to be searchable by topic. They've found, "In the first eight months of his presidency, President Trump made 1,137 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day." As of March 17, he was up to 9,179 false statements. There were 200 false statements about the environment – that's about one every four days, which compares favorably to the number ...

Opinion Analysis: The Justices Wish Sturgeon 'Good Hunting' in Sturgeon v. Frost

by Sandra Zellmer | March 28, 2019
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). The Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week in favor of Alaskan John Sturgeon, who waged a 12-year battle against the National Park Service over its ban on hovercraft in park preserves. As a result of the decision, Sturgeon can once again "rev up his hovercraft in search of moose" on the Nation River in the Yukon Charley Preserve. This is the ...

CPR's Cranor Talks PFAS, Drinking Water, and Corporate Accountability

by Brian Gumm | March 27, 2019
Michigan. Minnesota. New Jersey. North Carolina. West Virginia. These are just some of the hotspots of water contamination caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. Linked to a number of cancers and other illnesses, PFAS chemicals have been used in everything from nonstick cookware to stain-resistant clothing and carpets. Until recently, the substances have gone largely unregulated, exposing millions of Americans to toxic contamination. Earlier this month, CPR Member Scholar and UC-Riverside Professor Carl Cranor spoke with ...

Some Recusal Rules of Thumb for Recently Confirmed Judge Rao

by James Goodwin | March 25, 2019
During her confirmation hearing, Neomi Rao – then the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and President Trump's pick to fill Justice Kavanaugh's vacant seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – attracted a lot of controversy. Much of it surrounded the outrageous student newspaper commentaries she wrote as an undergrad, in which she casually passed judgment on date rape victims and the scourge of creeping multiculturalism. Now that Rao ...

EPA's Mission: The Original Understanding Wasn't Cutting Regulatory Costs

by Daniel Farber | March 21, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. What is EPA’s mission? To what extent is minimizing regulatory costs part of the core mission, as the Trump Administration seems to believe? Does the Trump-Pruitt/Wheeler view comport with original intent? History makes it clear that the answer is “no.” The title of the agency itself suggests that the core mission is protecting the environment, just as the core mission of the Defense Department is presumably national defense (though cost isn’t irrelevant in either setting). It’s ...

Public Interest Community Calls on EPA Administrator to Halt Dangerous 'Benefits-Busting Rule'

by James Goodwin | March 19, 2019
Today, the Center for Progressive Reform and 46 other environmental, labor, and public health organizations sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler calling on him to withdraw the agency's pending "benefits-busting" rule. Wheeler was recently confirmed as the official agency head, and, as the letter notes, he can begin his tenure on the right track by abandoning this dangerous rulemaking. The proposal is a vestige of the disastrous Scott Pruitt era that would radically overhaul how the ...

Declaring a Climate Change Emergency: A Citizen's Guide

by Daniel Farber | March 14, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The possibility of declaring a national emergency to address climate change will probably remain under discussion for the next couple of years, particularly if the courts uphold Trump's "wall" emergency. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to pull together the series of blog posts I've written on the subject. I want to emphasize three key points at the beginning: Declaring a climate emergency should be off the table if the Supreme Court rules ...

Oversight, Executive Orders, and the Rule of Law

by David Driesen | March 14, 2019
This post is based on a recent article published in the University of Missouri—Kansas City Law Review. Congressional oversight and the public's impeachment discussion tend to focus on deep dark secrets: Did President Trump conspire with the Russians? Did he cheat on his taxes? Did he commit other crimes before becoming president? The House Committee on Oversight and Reform (or the Judiciary Committee), however, should also focus on a more fundamental and less hidden problem: Trump has systematically sought to ...

Why Is Trump Getting the Cold Shoulder from the Car Companies?

by Daniel Farber | March 13, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Usually, you'd expect a regulated industry to applaud an effort to lighten its regulatory burdens. So you would think that the car industry would support Trump's effort to roll back fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles and take away California's authority to set its own vehicle standards. But that effort is being met by silence in some cases and vocal opposition in others. According to E&E News, "senior officials from EPA and the National Highway Traffic ...

Can the House Save Science from the Trump Purge?

by Laurie Ristino | March 12, 2019
The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has a weighty agenda – from policy reform to oversight of the Trump administration. Given all that the House Democrats have on their plate, urging them to restore policy rationality by making the support of science-based policy central to their strategy might seem like a prosaic ask, but it's critically important.   Without science as the lodestar for government policymaking, anything goes, which is exactly the problem. As the Union of ...

Due to NEPA, Trump's 'One-In, Two-Out' Order Does Not Apply to Environmentally Protective Regulations

by Joel Mintz | March 11, 2019
This post is adapted from a recent law review article published in the University of Missouri—Kansas City Law Review. In myriad ways – from speeches, favoritism toward polluting industries, and ill-advised regulatory rollbacks – the Trump administration has consistently exhibited unrestrained antagonism toward regulatory safeguards for health, safety, and the environment. One of the earliest manifestations of that antagonism – and arguably one of the most pernicious – was an executive order signed by the president only ten days after ...

The Missing Ingredient in the Green New Deal

by James Goodwin | March 07, 2019
To this point, much of the focus in the discussion over the Green New Deal has been on the substance of the vision it lays out for a better society – and why shouldn't it be? There's some really exciting stuff included in the Green New Deal's toplines, which are by now well-rehearsed: a full-scale mobilization plan put in place over the next 10 years to get the United States to net zero carbon emissions; major government investments in clean ...

New Report: Socially Vulnerable Communities Face Increasing Risks from Toxic Floodwaters in Virginia

by David Flores | March 06, 2019
2018 was one of the wettest years on record in Virginia, causing catastrophic floods and landslides, as well as unexpectedly high levels of pollution in the Commonwealth’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. While the last waterlogged year is only a recent memory for Virginians, seemingly unremarkable snow and rainfall at the end of February caused the James River to crest last week at its highest level in Richmond in almost ten years. Climate change has clearly transformed our experience with ...

The Potential Benefits of Declaring a Climate Emergency

by Daniel Farber | March 04, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. I have a confession: When I started thinking about the possibility of a climate emergency declaration, it was mostly as a counterpoint to Trump's possible (now certain) declaration of an immigration emergency. As I've thought about it, however, it seems to me that there are enough potential benefits to make the idea worth serious consideration. A relatively restrained use of emergency powers could still have some real payoff. In general, I'm not in favor of expanding ...

Resolution of Disapproval: Call for Repealing the CRA Featured in 'The Environmental Forum'

by James Goodwin | February 28, 2019
The return of divided government promises to bring with it a welcome, albeit temporary, reprieve from the unprecedented abuse of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that we witnessed during the 115th Congress. As I argue in an article featured in the March/April edition of The Environmental Forum, published by the Environmental Law Institute, the CRA has become far too dangerous a law – and the happenstance of divided government should not be the only thing protecting the public interest from ...

New on 'Connect the Dots': The Frontline Communities Fighting Back Against Polluting Pipelines

by James Goodwin | February 21, 2019
For affected indigenous communities in the United States and Canada, new oil and gas pipelines snaking across their lands represent a new kind of attack. Dirty, polluting, dangerous, and built without the communities' consent, these pipelines are the inevitable outcome of North America's hydraulic fracturing and tar sands oil "revolutions" that have played out in recent decades. These indigenous frontline communities must bear the disproportionate costs brought about by developed nations' continued addiction to fossil fuels, all without seeing most ...

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