Dec. 4, 2008 by Shana Campbell Jones

The Clean Water Act, Please, and Hold the Fried Fish

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Entergy Corp. v. EPA. The case involves a challenge by electric utilities to new EPA regulations requiring power plants to protect aquatic life by regulating “cooling water intake structures” at existing power plants. Billions of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic organisms are drawn into these cooling intake structures and killed yearly.


So basically the Court gets to decide between protecting all those creatures, or signing off on a very large fish fry.  But, as bad as the outcome in this case could be for aquatic life generally, the argument that industry is making before the Court suggests that it may have its eye on even bigger game. Not only do they seek to delay or scuttle cooling intake regulations, they’re making an argument that, if adopted by the Court, would threaten the gut the very structure of the Clean Water Act. CPR member scholar Bill Andreen describes what’s at stake bluntly: “if industry prevails in this case,” he says, “the Supreme Court will turn back the clock to the 1960s.”


Here’s how the time traveling would work. The power companies assert that EPA should apply …

Dec. 3, 2008 by James Goodwin

Perhaps no other consequence of global climate change kindles the public’s fears like the prospect of catastrophic sea-level rise.  For years now, climate scientists have recognized the potential for increasing global surface temperatures to produce certain kinds of feedback loops that would accelerate the collapse of massive ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica, leading to a rise in sea level in the range of 6 to 20 feet by the end of the century.  Such a development would wipe entire island nations off the map and inundate major cities like New York City, dislocating hundreds of millions of people around the world.


In short, whether or not massive ice shelf collapses occur could mean the difference between a rise in sea level of only a few inches versus a rise in sea level of many feet.  The problem is that, until recently, scientists have had no …

Dec. 2, 2008 by Shana Campbell Jones

Chief Justice Earl Warren once said he always turned to the sports section of the newspaper first. “The sports page records people’s accomplishments,” he explained. “The front page has nothing but man's failures.” The Chesapeake Bay has been in the news a lot lately, and its fans aren’t cheering. When it comes to Bay cleanup efforts, front-page failure – not a jolt of inspiration – is the order of the day.


Despite 25-plus years of study and effort, the Bay is dying. Its oyster population has been devastated, down to just 2 percent of its average level in the 1950s. Blue crab levels hover 30 percent below the annual average from 1968 to 2002. The cause of the Bay’s slow but sure death is all too well understood: Excess nutrients – phosphorous and nitrogen – from agriculture, urban and suburban runoff, and sewage treatment plants stimulate algae …

Dec. 1, 2008 by Margaret Giblin

The “land disposal” laws line up on the pages of U.S. history books, reminders of a bygone era when the government of a young nation was striving to find ways to encourage people to move west by giving away public lands at bargain-basement prices. The Homestead Act of 1862, for example, gave settlers title to 160-acre plots of land for just the cost of filing fees, so long as the settlers lived on the land for five years and cultivated part of it. The Desert Land Act of 1877 transferred title to 640-acre plots of land for 25¢ an acre so long as settlers could show that a good part of the land had been irrigated.


While these and other land disposal laws were repealed in 1976, when Congress enacted the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), one holdover from those pioneer days remains on …

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Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Effort Takes Its Lumps

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Mercatus and Midnight Regs

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Obama Speaks Up for Science

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Unsafe Toys Lay Bare CPSC's Problems

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