Clean Water Laws Need to Catch Up with Science

by Evan Isaacson | November 29, 2017

The field of environmental law often involves tangential explorations of scientific concepts. Lately, one scientific term – hydrologic connectivity – seems to keep finding its way into much of my work. As for many others, this principle of hydrology became familiar to me thanks to its place at the center of one of the biggest fights in the history of environmental law, spilling onto the front pages and into the public consciousness

Over the last several decades, a pair of Supreme Court opinions resulted in complete confusion over where federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act begins and ends – that is, over which waterways it protects. The Obama EPA spent years examining the best available science to develop a rule to bring clarity and certainty and draw jurisdictional boundaries roughly where they existed before the high court got involved. The new rule drew the ire of conservative activists and resource extraction industries, while the subsequent repeal of the rule by the Trump administration has resulted in widespread condemnation by environmental advocates and, in particular, administrative law scholars

What is interesting about this saga is that it is rooted in the issue of federal jurisdiction, not necessarily pollution reduction. But hydrologic connectivity is increasingly becoming a relevant environmental law and policy issue for advocates and courts for a variety of reasons. And I would suggest that the law ...

North Carolina v. Chemours: Early Reflections on an Ongoing State Environmental Enforcement Case

by Joel Mintz | November 27, 2017
The Trump EPA's shrinking commitment to enforcement of the nation's environmental laws has focused new attention on state-level enforcement and the extent to which it does or does not address problems of environmental pollution and threats to public health. One recent – and ongoing – controversy, involving toxic chemical contamination of a river in North Carolina by a large and profitable corporation, provides some insights into both the promise and the shortcomings of state environmental law enforcement. It also sheds ...

New Report: Toxic Industrial Stormwater Widespread, Maryland Enforcement Seldom Seen

by David Flores | November 16, 2017
Those who take public safeguards seriously are well aware of the potential consequences that arise from the dangerous combination of poorly written pollution permits and lax – even absent – enforcement. From construction sites with failing erosion and sediment controls to ammonia and bacteria-spewing concentrated animal feeding operations, our waterways, their users, and vulnerable populations in the pathway of pollution suffer the consequences. Starting today, we add industrial stormwater to the ignoble list of poorly regulated sources of environmental pollution ...

CPR Member Scholar Hammond Brings a Real EPA 'Back to Basics' Lesson to Senate

by James Goodwin | November 14, 2017
Today, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond is testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing that will examine four bills that amount to "rifle shot" attacks on the Clean Air Act's public health and environmental protections. Hammond's testimony before the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee casts in powerful terms what is at stake with these bills, highlighting how they contribute to the Trump administration's own assault on public safeguards. She also explains ...

Is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Focused on Getting 'Back to Basics' or Slashing and Burning Our Environmental Protections?

by Brian Gumm | November 06, 2017
In an article just published in the Environmental Law Institute's Environmental Law Reporter, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Bob Sussman examines the tenure of Administrator Scott Pruitt thus far. I recently talked with Mr. Sussman about Pruitt's so-called "back to basics" approach at EPA, the rollbacks of environmental protections he has overseen so far, and Pruitt's numerous favors for special interests.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has made a big deal out of his "back to basics" mantra at the ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Trump Administration's Clean Power Plan Repeal Proposal Is Illegal

by William Buzbee | October 30, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. The Trump administration's efforts to sidestep finalized regulations through stays or delays have so far met with judicial rejection in three straight decisions. As these courts have concluded, such a deregulatory strategy violates settled law that administrative agencies are bound by their own finalized regulations until they undo them through a new full rulemaking process. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt last week published a proposal to repeal the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan ...

Dear Congress: EPA's TSCA Implementation Has Gone Awry

by Katie Tracy | October 19, 2017
Individuals across the United States encounter hundreds of chemical substances every day and often simultaneously – in common household and hygiene products, in our food and drinking water, and in our air. Some of these chemicals present serious risks to our health and the environment and a heightened risk of harm for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. To this day, we are largely unprotected from all manner of chemical exposures, including chemicals widely known ...

CPR's Latest Op-Eds Take on the Assault on Our Safeguards

by Matthew Freeman | October 16, 2017
CPR's Member Scholars and staff have continued to appear in the nation's op-ed pages to expose the ongoing assault on our safeguards by President Trump and Congress. Among recent examples: Dan Farber's July 5 article in The Hill highlighted the many flaws in legislation introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) designed to encumber the development of regulatory safeguards. In "Tangling life-saving regulations in red tape," Farber writes, "[T]he bill would impose needlessly complex procedures that will ...

Foreseeable Yet Lamentable: Pruitt's Attack on Carbon Restrictions

by Daniel Farber | October 10, 2017
An earlier version of this post appeared on Legal Planet. Few things were more foreseeable than the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The administration was never going to leave in place a regulation that disfavored coal and promoted the use of renewable energy in electricity generation. The only real questions were when and how. Today, the administration is taking the first step with the release of a proposed rule repealing the CPP. EPA is relying wholly ...

Senate Briefing Highlights Need for Strong Federal Role in Protecting Endangered Species

by Alejandro Camacho | October 03, 2017
On September 28, I joined senators and Senate staff for a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Our discussion focused on the report I co-authored with my colleagues at the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources, entitled Conservation Limited: Assessing State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protection, which investigates states' capacity to protect and recover endangered species by looking at how these laws compare to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also looks at state and ...

Houston Chronicle Op-Ed: Burying Our Head in Sand on Climate Change No Longer an Option

by Victor Flatt | September 29, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Houston Chronicle. Every day during the Hurricane Harvey disaster, our hearts would sink as we kept hearing the word "unprecedented" again and again. Harvey wasn't supposed to strengthen so fast; it shouldn't have stalled where it did. Every day as we hoped the worst was over, Harvey would pummel us even harder. Everything was outside the norm, breaking all records. Over 50 inches of rain. Houston's "wettest month in recorded history." High river marks exceeded ...

CPR Scholars to EPA, Army Corps: Scrapping the Clean Water Rule is Unlawful, Unwise

by Dave Owen | September 26, 2017
On September 25, a group of Member Scholars from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) submitted comments on the Trump administration's proposed rollback of the "waters of the United States" rule (technically, the rollback rule has been issued by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but its support within those agencies comes only from the Trump administration's political appointees). The proposed rule addresses the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act – which means, in non-legal terms, ...

Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Preparing for Hurricanes Should Not Fall to Ratepayers

by Matt Shudtz | September 20, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun. The full scope of the heartbreaking devastation wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma — the human, economic and environmental toll — may not be completely understood for years. As we do what we can to help the victims, it is also time to think about how we can prepare for the inevitable here in Baltimore. After all, Baltimore floods more than most other cities in the United States and gets little help ...

Senate to Hold Confirmation Hearing on Another Round of Industry-Friendly EPA Nominees

by Matt Shudtz | September 19, 2017
UPDATE: The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has rescheduled the confirmation hearing originally slated for Wednesday, September 20. The committee now plans to hold the hearing on Wednesday, October 4. Three influential EPA offices – the Offices of Air, Water, and Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – share a common attribute. Each is at the center of a defining battle over its future. What is the future of climate regulation at EPA? How will the agency define "waters of ...

No Job and No Paycheck After Harvey and Irma

by Katie Tracy | September 15, 2017
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, thousands of Texans and Floridians are out of work, some indefinitely. Without knowing when their employers might reopen for business (if at all) , many are uncertain how they're going to afford their next meal or purchase basic necessities, much less repair their damaged homes and property. At the same time, monthly bills are coming due. Vice News recently shared one Houston family’s gripping story of how Harvey has devastated them financially. ...

You Are No Theodore Roosevelt

by Evan Isaacson | September 05, 2017
Last month, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke submitted his long-anticipated report to President Trump that recommends dismantling and looting some of America's treasured monuments and antiquities. (This was interesting timing, given that the president stood firmly behind the preservation of some other, far less-cherished monuments.) In anticipation of the report, Theodore Roosevelt IV, the 26th president's great-grandson, wrote a letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle telling Zinke that his actions have failed to live up to the legacy ...

Trump Administration Policies Will Make Americans More Vulnerable to Toxic Floodwaters

by David Flores | August 30, 2017
As the country bears witness to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, a storm unlike any other, the Trump administration's policy of rolling back worker, emergency response, and environmental safeguards will all but ensure that victims of future flooding events will be exposed to toxic contamination. Over just a 36-hour period, an estimated 9 trillion gallons of rainwater deluged Texas, affecting millions and displacing tens of thousands along the Gulf Coast and in Houston. As the rainfall and flooding wear on this week, emergency ...

As Texas Floods, President Trump Backpedals on Resiliency

by Alice Kaswan | August 28, 2017
With a sense of horror, the nation is watching waters rise in southeastern Texas as now-Tropical Storm Harvey spins across the Gulf Coast. While no individual storm can be attributed to climate change, scientists predict more intense storms, and the wisdom of preparing for future floods has never been clearer. And yet, less than two weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order that rolled back a federal flood standard designed to anticipate intense flooding. Instead of investing in infrastructure ...

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.

Kneecapping CERCLA Won't Get Rid of Air Pollution from Ag

Ristino | Mar 13, 2018 | Environmental Policy

EPA Isn't the Only Place Where Enforcement Is Being Put on Ice

Isaacson | Mar 01, 2018 | Environmental Policy

The Ninth Circuit, the Clean Water Act, and Septic Tanks

Owen | Feb 15, 2018 | Environmental Policy

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