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 from our inadequate water infrastructure.
Every time a major storm visits our region, millions of gallons of sewage overflow from Baltimore's antiquated sewers. Worse, our sewer system has failed time and again under even the smallest rainfalls. In August, federal, state and city regulators and lawyers finalized a deal to modify the legal settlement originally signed in 2002 to upgrade sewer infrastructure by 2016.
The good news is that the projects needed to keep sewage from flowing into our basements and the Inner Harbor are some of the same ones needed to prepare for tropical storms. Modern stormwater management technology provides us with the ability to make our city "spongier" — to absorb rain and slow down polluted runoff before it pools in streets, overwhelms storm drains, damages property and spills into local waters.
But an important question is how we'll pay for the work. Arguably, the primary reason that Baltimore failed to
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 postponed the confirmation hearing originally slated for Wednesday, September 20. The committee has not yet rescheduled the hearing. 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 the United States" given
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
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
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
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
Law Professors from Every Coast Ask SCOTUS to Weigh in on Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Case
Last week, more than two dozen law professors from around the country – many of them CPR Member Scholars – filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging a fresh look at a lower court decision with sweeping implications for the balance of power between states and the federal government. The issue is vital to Louisiana because it affects whether oil and gas companies can be held liable for decades of damage they have done to the state's
Summer: The Season of Sickness for America's Waters
It's that time of year again. No, I don't mean time for back-to-school sales, last-ditch beach getaways, or Shark Week re-runs. Instead, I'm referring to the time of year when we're once again reminded just how sick our waterways are. Every year around this time, we read about massive dead zones and toxic algal blooms infecting large swaths of our nation's inland and coastal waters. The combination of warming water temperatures and fertilizer runoff during the growing season leads to
200 Days and Counting: Pollution and Climate Change
Rolling back EPA regulations is one of the Trump administration's priorities. The most notable example is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut CO2 emissions from power plants. The other rule that has gotten considerable attention is the so-called WOTUS rule, which defines federal jurisdiction to regulate wetlands and watersheds. But these are not the only rules in the crosshairs. EPA has announced plans to reconsider a rule limiting emission of toxic substances from power plants, rules dealing with
New Report Shows State Endangered Species Laws Come Up Short in Protecting Imperiled Plants, Animals, Habitats
In spite of its documented success in conserving vulnerable species and ecosystems, as well as robust and enduring support among American voters, the federal Endangered Species Act has not been spared from calls to devolve funding and authority from the federal government. As this trend has gained increasing support within the 115th Congress and the Trump administration, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is widely expected to introduce legislation that seeks to erode
When Deciding Which Endangered Species to Prioritize, What Role Do Biodiversity and Ecosystem-Level Assessments Play?
This post is the second of a pair focused on the challenges facing the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 21st century. You can read the first post here. In drafting the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), Congress gave explicit attention and priority, and therefore funding, to individual species. Rather than approaching species conservation through a more holistic consideration of a species' importance within its ecological community, giving broader attention to biodiversity, or looking
Does Species Triage Make Sense for the Fish and Wildlife Service?
This post is the first of a pair focused on the challenges facing the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 21st century. You can read the second post here. Imagine yourself in a sinking ship. The water is rising quickly. Around you are 20 unique, precious artifacts, among the last of their kind to exist on Earth. You only have the capacity to rescue 10 pounds of these objects – if you try to take on
Does TSCA Reform Have a Future?
June 22 marked the one-year anniversary of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the first major update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) since its original enactment in 1976. The measure set a one-year deadline for EPA to complete several actions to implement the law, including finalizing its procedural rules on chemical prioritization and risk evaluation and releasing key documents related to the initial ten chemicals the agency has chosen to evaluate. (See all
The Unclean Water Rule
This post builds from an interview with the author for WYPR's The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton, a portion of which aired on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. One question I've been asked a number of times over the last several years is, "What does the Clean Water Rule mean for the Chesapeake Bay?" With EPA's recent proposal to repeal the rule, I'm once again hearing questions and speculation about what this repeal will mean for the Bay watershed. I
Trump's EPA Budget Plan Would Harm Many Everyday Americans
Imagine that a hostile foreign power covertly manipulated our democracy and government to impose on Florida and other coastal states heightened risks of catastrophic sea level rise and an intensification of hurricanes, floods, droughts, and diseases carried by insects and parasites. Suppose, too, that the same foreign government then set about to demolish the work of American institutions that prevent serious diseases and avoidable deaths to our people. Without doubt, we would regard those acts as threats to our national
Combating Climate Change and Health Risks through a Carbon Fee
by Amro Ali | July 06, 2017
No one is safe from the effects of climate change. That's the key takeaway from a March report by nearly a dozen highly respected medical organizations that studied the link between climate change and risks to our health. And these aren't far-off impacts or theoretical dangers: human-driven climate change is already making people sick. Here's just one example: A woman in southwestern Pennsylvania who had never heard of Lyme disease saw five of her friends contract the illness in recent
Murr v. Wisconsin: The 'Whole Parcel' Rule Prevails, At Least in This Regulatory Takings Case
Originally published by the George Washington Law Review How should a court assessing a regulatory takings claim define the "property" allegedly taken to assess the degree of the economic impact the regulation has on it? That question has plagued the Supreme Court for nearly a century, with different and conflicting answers emerging, sometimes in relatively rapid succession. In Murr v. Wisconsin, the Court has provided its most comprehensive answer to the so-called "denominator" question so far, although even the analytical framework
Repeal First, Explain Later: The Trump Administration and the Clean Water Rule
by Dave Owen | June 28, 2017
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Dave Owen. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers just released a proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule and to return to previous regulations. The Clean Water Rule (also known as the WOTUS Rule) would have clarified the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It was one of the Obama administration's signature environmental initiatives, and it was one of candidate and then President Trump's signature targets. So the