The Message Congress Needs to Hear As It Debates Our Water Infrastructure Needs

by Evan Isaacson | June 22, 2017

Last fall, the Senate directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to conduct an independent study on affordability of municipal investments in water infrastructure. As someone who spent several years within the halls of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, I was honored to contribute to NAPA's research efforts by responding to a survey with suggestions for public administrators and communities struggling to meet the challenges caused by massive underinvestment in water infrastructure and the growing threats that poses to public health and water quality.

The specific questions that NAPA has been charged with answering are difficult. Over the years, EPA has developed an ever-evolving set of guidance documents with an increasing degree of complexity for state and federal regulators and the regulated community of municipal agencies and water utilities. A certain degree of complexity is inevitable in order to respond with sufficient flexibility to the myriad and unique fiscal and engineering challenges that each community faces.

Despite the complexity of EPA's framework for determining and applying affordability guidelines in practice and the severity of our nation's deteriorated water infrastructure, I would argue that NAPA should deliver a concise and straightforward message to Congress: There are no silver bullets that will resolve our water infrastructure crisis, and no corners that can be cut. Only when lawmakers reckon with the scale and importance of the issue can ...

New Report: With Assault on Safeguards, Trump Trounces Constitution, U.S. History

by James Goodwin | June 21, 2017
Today, Neomi Rao is likely to take one step closer to becoming the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – that is, the Trump administration's "regulatory czar" – with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expected to favorably report her nomination to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.  As detailed in an April 2017 CPR report on her nomination, Rao would arrive at her new position with little substantive expertise related to ...

CPR Scholar Op-Eds Hit Assault on Our Safeguards from Trump and Congress

by Matthew Freeman | June 19, 2017
Four recent op-eds by CPR Member Scholars underscore the scope and danger of the current assault on our safeguards now being mounted by the president and the congressional leadership. Highlights of the most recent pieces follow, but you can always browse through all of this year’s published pieces from our scholars and staff on our website. On May 17, Alyson Flournoy and Mary Jane Angelo, colleagues at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, co-authored “Without Public Protections, Florida ...

New York Times Op-ed: Regulatory 'Reform' That Is Anything But

by William Buzbee | June 15, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The New York Times. After decades of failed efforts to enact "regulatory reform" bills, Congress appears to be within a few votes of approving reform legislation that would strip Americans of important legal protections, induce regulatory sclerosis and subject agencies that enforce the nation's laws and regulations to potentially endless litigation. This is not reform. These bills would sabotage agency regulation with legislative monkey wrenches. Key compromises about agency power and procedures, worked out under ...

Chamber's Brief Lays Bare Crackpot Theory at Heart of Two-for-One Order

by Amy Sinden | June 15, 2017
I don't know what executive order the Chamber of Commerce is defending in the amicus brief it filed Monday in Public Citizen v. Trump. But it doesn't appear to be the one at issue in that lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that Trump's "one-in, two-out" executive order is unconstitutional. That's the order he issued in January requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every one they issue. It requires agencies to make sure that the costs imposed by any new regulation ...

As Waters Rise, Trump Wants to Cut Coastal Protection Efforts Off at the Knees

by David Flores | June 14, 2017
On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee to explain how he plans to square the Trump administration's proposed 31-percent cut to EPA's budget with its statutory obligations to protect the environment. Spoiler alert: There's no plan. The proposition – implementing and enforcing safeguards related to water, air, and hazardous materials while cutting a quarter of the agency's workforce – is preposterous.  Some House members are likely to press Pruitt on a ...

As Pruitt Visits Congress to Discuss Massive EPA Cuts, Don't Lose Sight of Important but Less Visible Damage

by Evan Isaacson | June 14, 2017
With a massive, proposed 31 percent cut to his agency looming in the background, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is preparing to visit Capitol Hill for an appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday. Lawmakers, their staff, and others are likely and understandably focused on the Paris climate agreement withdrawal, the Trump administration's proposal to end federal financial support for programs that help protect and restore a variety of Great Waters like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, and ...

House Continues its Anti-Consumer Crusade, Attacking Patients' Rights

by Matt Shudtz | June 13, 2017
To call the timing coincidental doesn't give House Republicans enough credit. Tomorrow, while the fallout from Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony about his connections to Russia dominates most Capitol Hill news coverage, the House will vote on H.R. 1215, a bill designed to strip injured patients of their day in court. Last week, the same legislators voted to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the cover of James Comey's testimony about President Trump's ham-fisted attempts to interfere in the ...

Trump's Nominee for Top EPA Enforcement Lawyer Set to Testify. Here's What We Want to Know.

by Matt Shudtz | June 12, 2017
Susan Bodine, an attorney with significant experience on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is President Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the agency. She is likely to get a friendly audience tomorrow when she appears before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to answer questions about the future of OECA. After all, she's worked closely with everyone on the panel, and there remain some aspects of federal ...

LA Times Op-Ed: EPA Scientists Said Ban the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos. Scott Pruitt Said No

by Carl Cranor | June 08, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. Miners carried canaries into coal mines; if the canary died, it was an early warning of the presence of toxic gases that could also asphyxiate humans or explode. The Trump administration has decided to use children and farmworkers as 21st century canaries, continuing their exposure to a pesticide named chlorpyrifos that has been linked to serious health concerns. The toxicity of this commonly used pesticide was demonstrated in early May when ...

Trump's Proposed Budget Cuts to Climate Programs Hurt American Agriculture

by David Flores | June 07, 2017
President Trump's historic retreat from the Paris climate accord last week is just the latest installment in the story of how his administration's anti-science and anti-protections policies with respect to climate change could do grave harm to many aspects of American life. His proposed budget is likely to be the next chapter.  While Trump sees the issue through coal-colored lenses, it's clear to anyone paying attention to actual science that that the impacts of climate change have and will continue ...

Questions Arise as Senate Prepares to Take Up Nomination for Key Trump Regulatory Post

by Robert Verchick | June 06, 2017
Tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will examine and likely vote on President's Trump's selection for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA is the most important government office most Americans have never heard of. It is the depot through which all regulatory freight must pass, the place where ideas go to be sorted, weighed, green-lighted, or buried. It's the ganglia of the president's bureaucratic brain. At the center of those fluttering ...

The Congressional Review Act Is No Solution

by James Goodwin | June 01, 2017
This post was originally published on The Regulatory Review. Over the last several years, conservative opponents of regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, consumers, and the economy have gradually coalesced around a grand theory for why the supposed balance of policymaking powers between the executive and legislative branches has become so, well, unbalanced. These opponents’ theory goes something like this: Congress faces strong incentives to delegate too much substantive policymaking authority to federal agencies because delegation creates a political “win-win.” By passing statutes with ...

Paris Withdrawal Could Lead to 'Lost Century'

by Noah M Sachs | June 01, 2017
The President’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement is a tragedy born of his failure to appreciate the vital importance of U.S. leadership in the world. It’s particularly regrettable coming as it does on the heels of his performance in Europe last week, during which his refusal to embrace the fundamental underpinnings of NATO rocked the alliance. By abandoning the Paris Agreement, Trump continues on a reckless path of pretending that the dire threat posed by ...

Slowly and Grudgingly, Change Is Coming to Coal Country

by Daniel Farber | May 30, 2017
A sign of the times: Fox News has reported, without comment, that the Kentucky Coal Museum is installing solar panels to save money. This is part of a larger trend. On Saturday, the New York Times reported on shifts in power production in states like West Virginia and Kentucky. For instance, Appalachian Power has “closed three coal-fired plants and converted two others to gas, reducing its dependence on coal to 61 percent last year, down from 74 percent in 2012.” In response to an ...

Trump Budget Would Rob Public Programs to Give Money to Private Corporations

by Katie Tracy | May 26, 2017
President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request may be DOA in Congress, but it nonetheless offers critical insight into how he expects to pay for his border wall, increase defense spending, offer up a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, and carry out his other pet projects, all while cutting corporate taxes. The bottom line is that he intends to eliminate some public programs and rob many others, and give that money to private corporations. The Trump budget proposal to slash funding for the ...

New Amicus Supports Challenge to Trump's 'Two-for-One' Order

by James Goodwin | May 25, 2017
Yesterday, ten distinguished law professors, all of them CPR Member Scholars writing in their individual capacities, filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Communication Workers of America challenging as illegal and unconstitutional the Trump administration’s Executive Order 13771. The order requires agencies to identify at least two existing rules to repeal for every new one they seek to issue and to ensure that the money companies would ...

Whither WOTUS?

by Daniel Farber | May 24, 2017
President Trump ordered EPA and the Army Corps to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which sets expansive bounds on federal jurisdiction over water bodies and wetlands. The agencies have sent the White House a proposal to rescind the WOTUS rule and revert to earlier rules until they can come up with a replacement. In my view, either the agencies will have to dive deep into the scientific thicket in the hope of justifying a new ...

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