CPR Archive for Laurie Ristino

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 Concerned Scientists documented in a recent report, the Trump administration has been marginalizing science and isolating federal scientists for the past two years. Trump appointees have systematically undercut the science-based policies and regulations forged to protect human health and the environment. This has opened the door to irrational policymaking aimed at benefiting the industries and special interests to which these appointees are linked.

The bipartisan design of our foundational environmental laws, most from the late 1960s and '70s, grounded environmental regulation in science in an attempt to put their implementation above the political fray. For decades, those laws worked reasonably well because their implementation relied heavily on objective information yielded by science, rather than a partisan agenda.

Some commentators have traced the "war on science" to George W. Bush's presidency. As a federal attorney in public service at the time, I can attest to that administration's costly policy of denying human-caused climate change. Whatever ...

Farm Bill 2018 -- Where Are We Going Post-Midterms?

by Laurie Ristino | November 16, 2018
The midterm elections are over, and most of the races have been decided. The outcome will have consequences for a wide variety of policies and legislation, including the 2018 Farm Bill. So what's the status of the bill? What are its prospects for passage during what remains of the 115th Congress? And how will the current and near-future political landscape impact the legislation's conservation provisions? To answer these questions and more, I moderated a recent Center for Progressive Reform webinar ...

Draining Washington of Science and Talent

by Laurie Ristino | September 20, 2018
Donald Trump has, in a sense, made good on his promise to "drain" Washington, D.C. – but not in the way many people probably thought he would. The exodus from our nation's capital has been made up of the scientists, diplomats, and policy experts that a democracy needs to function, not the high-powered, special interest lobbyists voters likely had in mind. Meanwhile, a raft of grifters has gleefully taken a temporary perch in the executive branch. The ensuing debacles, scandals, ...

This Year's Farm Bill Has Huge Environmental Implications

by Laurie Ristino | July 23, 2018
Scott Pruitt's narcissistic reign as EPA Administrator consumed advocates' collective energies, and rightfully so. It was a drama that recently ended – not via Trump tweet, but by old-fashioned resignation. Alas, this victory's potential downside is that the new guy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, may be more effective at dismantling environmental protections than Pruitt was because Wheeler actually understands how bureaucracy works. Then, of course, came the orchestrated events surrounding Justice Kennedy's retirement and President Trump's pick to fill the ...

Recipe: Turning the House's Lemon of a Farm Bill into Lemonade

by Laurie Ristino | April 25, 2018
Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a pock-marked, micro-legislated Farm Bill along strict party lines. It's a shameful goody bag of legislative delights for a few that comes at the expense of the majority of the American people.  Some lowlights: The bill holds our hungriest Americans hostage by conditioning SNAP benefits (food stamps) on job training (what kind of country withholds food from its citizens?); reduces conservation dollars that are critically needed given the pitiful state of soil health ...

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

by Laurie Ristino | March 13, 2018
Who doesn't want to breathe clean air? Unfortunately, a "bipartisan" bill now working its way through the Senate would undermine our ability to address a growing source of air pollution – livestock operations. The so-called Fair Agriculture Reporting Method Act (S. 2421), or the "FARM Act," would amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as the Superfund law, to exempt agricultural producers from reporting toxic air emissions. The bill's clever name is a misnomer: it ...

Is the Farm "Safety Net" Safe?

by Laurie Ristino | February 08, 2018
This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill. Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate. The ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018
This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues. President Obama once referred to the current (2014) ...

Also from Laurie Ristino

Laurie Ristino is a Visiting Scholar at The George Washington University Law School and a consultant for Strategies for a Sustainable Future.

Can the House Save Science from the Trump Purge?

Ristino | Mar 12, 2019 | Good Government

Farm Bill 2018 -- Where Are We Going Post-Midterms?

Ristino | Nov 16, 2018 | Environmental Policy

Draining Washington of Science and Talent

Ristino | Sep 20, 2018 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

This Year's Farm Bill Has Huge Environmental Implications

Ristino | Jul 23, 2018 | Environmental Policy

Recipe: Turning the House's Lemon of a Farm Bill into Lemonade

Ristino | Apr 25, 2018 | Environmental Policy

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