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Jan. 30, 2009 by Yee Huang

Digital Signals E-Waste: Not In My Backyard

When analog signals for broadcast television end on February 17, one problem of the digital signal switch for televisions will remain: what to do with older televisions that are incompatible with digital signals.  While the federal government is providing rebates to purchasers of converter boxes for older televisions, the boxes are simply a stopgap measure and do not replicate digital-quality television.  For example, because of the difference in image resolution, the view for a 17-inch television with an analog signal appears as a truncated 15-inch view on the same television with a digital signal.  It’s not difficult to imagine that these televisions will eventually be replaced, ending up in domestic landfills or foreign processing centers.  Between 2003 and 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of electronic products were recycled, and the remaining 80 to 85 per cent of products were disposed of, largely in landfills.  It’s nice to imagine that Wall-E, the endearing trash-compactor from Pixar’s movie, is happily and busily scooping up these old electronics, squishing them into neat cubes far from any human contact.  The reality is far less pleasant.  The majority of recycled products are shipped overseas …

Jan. 29, 2009 by Margaret Giblin
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This week, there’s been good news from the Obama Administration regarding climate change policy.  California will likely get that waiver under the Clean Air Act allowing it to set stricter emissions standards for cars.  Additionally, Lisa Jackson, the new Administrator of EPA, indicated in an e-mail (subscription required) to agency employees that the agency will soon move to comply with the Supreme Court’s opinion in Massachusetts v. EPA.  In that opinion, the Court agreed with the plaintiffs’ arguments that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act.  It further directed the agency to determine whether GHGs endanger the public health and/or welfare such that they should in fact be regulated under the Act.  In a related development, Jackson reportedly (subscription required) plans to hire Georgetown University Law Professor and CPR alumna Lisa Heinzerling as her top climate counsel …

Jan. 28, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones
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We will restore science to its rightful place. -- President Barack Obama, Inaugural Speech

 

As Governor of Texas, I have set high standards for our public schools, and I have met those standards. -- Former President George W. Bush, Aug. 2000 CNN Interview  

 

With former President Bush hightailing it back to Texas last week, you’d think the cowboy clichés might be right behind him, maybe waiting for the next Ann Richards or Molly Ivins to make them fresh and funny again. But, given the Texas State Board of Education’s recent decision to reject – yes, reject – anti-science pro-creationism language in the state’s science standards, I just can’t resist throwing out a few more Texas gems (especially since I lived in Austin, Texas for six years and still miss it).  So here goes: although I’m apt to worry the warts off a frog, it looks like …

Jan. 28, 2009 by Holly Doremus
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Cross-posted from Environment & Law.

 

The Washington Post reports that officials at the Department of Interior ignored “key scientific findings” and the views of National Park Service officials “when they limited water flows in the Grand Canyon to optimize generation of electric power there, risking damage to the ecology of the spectacular national landmark.” The Post story, written by Juliet Eilperin and based in part on documents provided by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, describes a power struggle within Interior between the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service, with the Bureau prevailing and the Service told to keep its criticisms of the plan and the supporting environmental assessment to itself.

 

This is far from the first criticism of the Bush-era Interior Department’s use of science or implementation of environmental law. It’s especially troubling, however, because since passage of the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection …

Jan. 27, 2009 by Matthew Freeman
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CPR Member Scholar Nina Mendelson has a piece in today's New York Times "Room for Debate" online feature on California's Clean Air Act waiver request.  She says President Obama's direction to EPA that it reconsider its previous denial of the waiver (issued during the Bush Administration) "reaffirms the critical role of states as environmental leaders, something lost sight of in the previous administration."

 

She continues:

Permitting states to develop new approaches is not just about finding local solutions for local problems that might escape the notice of federal regulators. State governments also can serve as “laboratories of democracy,” in Justice Brandeis’s words, devising and testing new ideas to address societal problems. This is one reason why Congress allowed California to develop its own automotive pollution standards, a power California has had for decades.

This all may sound abstract, but the effects are concrete …

Jan. 27, 2009 by Matthew Freeman
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No question about it: A new sheriff’s in town. After eight years of environmental policymaking bent around the convenience of oil companies and other polluting industries, yesterday was like a breath of fresh, clean air. And indeed, clean air is one likely outcome from the Obama Administration’s first few steps on the environment yesterday.

 

In case you missed it, the first piece big news was that President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush EPA’s denial of a waiver to the Clean Air Act requested by California. If granted, the waiver would have allowed – and now could still allow – California to impose stricter automobile emissions standards than the federal government’s. (The Clean Air Act allows states to do so, but only with a waiver from the federal government.) An additional 13 states are set to follow California’s lead, and …

Jan. 26, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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This morning, the Center for Progressive Reform published a report on some of the issues that will confront President Obama’s “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein, if, as seems likely, he is nominated and confirmed to be the director of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

 

I’ve blogged on this before, and our report, Reinvigorating Protection of Health, Safety, and the Environment: The Choices Facing Cass Sunstein, speaks for itself, so I won’t go on too long here. The report fleshes out a number of significant differences that we have with the regulatory methods and outcomes Professor Sunstein has embraced – his approach to cost-benefit analysis first and foremost. We believe OIRA’s 25-year record of applying cost-benefit amply demonstrates that it is an inherently flawed method of evaluating proposed regulations. Time and again, benefits (to the public) are understated and costs (to industry) are …

Jan. 23, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones
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When it comes to protecting the environment and human health, the difference between what the Obama Administration portends and what the Bush Administration wrought may reside in the difference between three little words: “yes, we can” versus “no we won’t.” How and when Lisa Jackson, President-elect Obama’s pick to head the EPA, tackles perchlorate will be an early indicator of whether the difference between Bush and Obama will be as dramatic as environmentalists and public health advocates hope. Perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel and munitions, has contaminated at unsafe levels the drinking water of 16.6 million Americans, according to the EPA.  Perchlorate blocks the uptake of iodide into thyroid. This is particularly bad during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers, because iodide is essential to proper fetal and infant brain development. If fetuses and breastfeeding babies don’t get the iodide they need …

Jan. 22, 2009 by Margaret Giblin
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Former President George W. Bush departed for Dallas on Tuesday, but his pervasive legacy remains here in Washington. In a prior post here on CPRblog, I wrote about one of the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations,” which collectively stamped the most recent of the Bush imprints on public policy. In its proposed changes to the interagency consultation rule under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Bush Administration proposed to, among other things, effectively eliminate the statutory requirement that federal agencies consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to confirm their own conclusions that a planned action won’t adversely affect threatened and endangered species. CPR, led by Member Scholars Holly Doremus, Alex Camacho, Dan Rohlf and Board Member Rob Glicksman, submitted comments in opposition to the proposed changes.

After speed-reading through CPR’s comments and approximately 250 …

Jan. 21, 2009 by Matthew Freeman
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Editor’s Note: Following is the second of several posts focused on federal preemption issues and featuring CPR Member Scholars Thomas McGarity and William Buzbee.  In December, both published books on the issue.  (The first blog post in the series includes some background on the issue.)  McGarity’s book is The Preemption War: When Federal Bureaucracies Trump Local Juries.  Buzbee’s is Preemption Choice: The Theory, Law, and Reality of Federalism's Core Question, and features chapter contributions from 15 experts, including Buzbee and McGarity, as well as a number of other CPR Member Scholars.

We asked Professors McGarity and Buzbee to discuss the books and the issue, and here’s the second installment of that conversation:

 

What are the stakes for individuals in this? Professor McGarity:  Ordinary folks have a tremendous stake in the outcome of what I call the “preemption war” because federal regulation directly …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 30, 2009

Digital Signals E-Waste: Not In My Backyard

Jan. 29, 2009

Studies Highlight Need for Natural Resource Adaptation Measures

Jan. 28, 2009

More Accusations of Politics Trumping Science and Law at Interior

Jan. 28, 2009

Rescuing Science from Politics, Texas Style

Jan. 27, 2009

CPR's Nina Mendelson on President Obama and the California Waiver

Jan. 27, 2009

A Good Day for the Environment

Jan. 26, 2009

Cass Sunstein and OIRA