Pollution Bursts and Public Health

by Daniel Farber | June 13, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet.

When a facility installs and operates the required pollution control equipment, we normally think of the pollution problem as solved. But there still may be bursts of pollution associated with start-up, shut-down, accidents, or external events. A recent study of pollution in Texas shows that these events have substantial health impacts, involving significant deaths and overall costs of about a quarter billion dollars a year in that state. Ironically, the study comes out at the same time as Trump's EPA has proposed to approve Texas's lax treatment of these "exceptional events." Texas purports to bar federal courts from even considering civil penalties for permit violations due to those events.

These events may be exceptional, but that does not make them harmless. The study by researchers at the University of Indiana proved that excess emissions from exceptional events impact public health. According to the researchers, in 2014, there were over 3,000 excess emissions events in Texas. Those events were responsible for 22,472 tons of releases of common pollutants like particulates and 5,506 tons of volatile organic compounds (which contribute to ozone pollution). Using the Texas database of facility emissions and data from air monitoring, the study linked excess emissions with local air pollution levels. The study then linked the air pollution levels with health effects, finding over 40 additional deaths of elderly people and other health impacts from the higher ...

Updates on the War on Science

by Daniel Farber | June 10, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The Trump administration's hostile attitude toward science has continued unabated. The administration has used a triad of strategies: efforts to defund research, suppression of scientific findings, and embrace of fringe science. Budget. The administration continues to favor deep cuts in research support. Its initial 2020 budget proposal calls for a 13 percent cut to the National Science Foundation, a 12 percent cut at the National Institutes of Health, and elimination of the Energy Department's research support ...

Trump EPA Hiding Hundreds of Deaths in Plain View

by Daniel Farber | May 28, 2019
According to press reports, EPA is preparing to ignore possible deaths caused by concentrations of pollutants occurring below the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). This is a key issue in a lot of decisions about pollution reduction. For instance, there is no NAAQS for mercury, but pollution controls on mercury would, as a side benefit, reduce pollution levels of harmful particulates. According to EPA’s prior cost-benefit analyses, those reductions could save many lives even in areas where current levels of ...

EPA's Partial Retreat on Cost-Benefit Analysis

by James Goodwin | May 22, 2019
In a memo sent last week but just now released, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler backtracked a bit on one of the administration's initiatives to undercut sensible safeguards. His May 13 memo abandons the agency's push last year to establish uniform standards for bending agency decision making in favor of cost-benefit analysis, regardless of statutory directives, and instead directs that this effort follow a statute-by-statute approach. Wheeler’s retreat on this particular effort to ignore the life-saving benefits of environmental rules is good ...

What President Trump's Infrastructure Agenda Gets Wrong

by Alejandro Camacho | May 08, 2019
Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. At the outset of the Trump Administration, policymakers of all stripes hoped infrastructure might be an issue on which Congress and the President could reach bipartisan agreement. President Donald J. Trump stressed infrastructure needs during and after the 2016 election, and members of Congress from both parties asserted that repairing and upgrading infrastructure was a top priority. Recently, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats claimed to make progress over the possibility of ...

Connecting the Dots Among Infrastructure, Community Needs, and Climate: Season Two of CPR's Signature Podcast

by Robert Verchick | May 07, 2019
Pop quiz: What do marshes, pipelines, forests, and underground parking structures have in common? The answer is they are all infrastructure – part of the "underlying foundation," as my dictionary puts it, "on which the continuance and growth of a community depend." A lot of that foundation, like pipelines and parking structures, is artificial. But most of the goods and services we rely on come from the natural environment, itself, like clean water, breathable air, and a stable climate. Ideally, ...

How Climate Change Will Affect Real Lives -- Now and in the Future

by Daniel Farber | May 06, 2019
This op-ed was originally published by The Revelator. It is reprinted under Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND 3.0. Climate change has already had serious effects, but as we know from the steady and increasingly loud drumbeat of projections from various scientific bodies, the dangers will grow much greater in future decades. But what does this actually look like? Projections of life in 2050 or 2100 seem like the stuff of science fiction, yet those seemingly distant decades are not so far ...

Twin Peaks: The Fossil Fuel Edition -- Part II

by Joseph Tomain | April 22, 2019
Fossil fuels are reaching their consumption peak. By way of example, the United States has a surfeit of coal, but coal use is on the decline as natural gas and renewable resources replace the dirty fuel for generating electricity. Similarly, oil and natural gas are on the same decreasing consumption trajectory as recent data and modeling suggest. Consider the following market facts that directly impact coal and reveal its consumption peak: In Europe, fossil fuels peaked when renewables reached 3 ...

Twin Peaks: The Fossil Fuel Edition -- Part I

by Joseph Tomain | April 22, 2019
In 1956, Texas oil geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak no later than 1970. Lo and behold, in 1970, oil production topped out at just over 9.6 million barrels a day (mbd) and began its decline. The predicted peak had been reached. Regarding the world oil supply – no worries. There were oceans of oil in Middle East deserts, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, new finds in the North Sea, as well as discoveries, largely ...

CPR Scholars and Staff Call on EPA to Abandon Proposed Attack on Mercury Rule

by James Goodwin | April 18, 2019
One of the most successful environmental regulations in U.S. history is under attack from the Trump EPA – and its demise might be accomplished by shady bookkeeping. That is the conclusion of comments filed by Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars and staff on April 17. Since it was issued in 2011, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), which establishes rigorous technology-based standards to limit hazardous air pollution from fossil-fueled power plants – has reduced electric utilities' emissions of ...

CPR Member Scholars to EPA: Clean Water Rule Rollback Based on Bad Law, Weak Science

by Matt Shudtz | April 15, 2019
The federal Clean Water Act has been a resounding success as a tool for restoring our nation's waterways and preserving wetlands and other vital components of our ecosystems. But that success depends, in part, on restricting development in ecologically sensitive areas. That's why the Trump administration has proposed to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act's protections. Not by amending the law, mind you – that wasn't possible when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, much less now. Instead, ...

A Defeat on Offshore Drilling Extends the Trump Administration's Losing Streak in Court

by Alejandro Camacho | April 11, 2019
Originally published by The Conversation. The Trump administration's push to boost fossil fuel extraction has received a major setback. On March 29, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled invalid Trump's order lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the the Arctic Ocean and along parts of the North Atlantic coast. Gleason held that the relevant law – the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – authorizes presidents to withdraw offshore lands ...

Economists vs. Environmentalists: Time for D├ętente?

by Daniel Farber | April 09, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Cost-benefit analysis has long been the target of environmentalist ire. But one lesson of the Trump years has been that economic analysis can be a source of support for environmental policy — it is the anti-regulatory forces who have to fudge the numbers to justify their actions. Most energy and environmental economists are aghast at Trump's assaults on climate change regulations — many of them would instead favor stricter regulation over the status quo. Maybe ...

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 ...

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 ...

Environmental Policy

The planet faces unprecedented environmental challenges. Heading the list of threats is climate change, but other problems persist, including air and water pollution, toxic waste, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife. In recent years, we've been reminded that many of these problems , in their way, magnify the harm from natural disasters.

Trump's Legal Challenges to the California Car Deal

Farber | Sep 09, 2019 | Environmental Policy

Clearing the Air

Farber | Aug 26, 2019 | Environmental Policy

Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline?

Sachs | Aug 14, 2019 | Environmental Policy

Get Ready for Phase 2 of the Deregulation Wars

Farber | Aug 05, 2019 | Environmental Policy

The Flight of the Bumblebee

Farber | Jul 30, 2019 | Environmental Policy

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