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April 29, 2011 by Matthew Freeman

Disaster Planning and Recovery: Verchick Op-Eds in Christian Science Monitor and New Orleans Times-Picayune

Robert R.M. Verchick recently completed a two-year stint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and returned to his work at Loyola University in New Orleans, and, happily, to the rolls of active CPR Member Scholars. While at EPA, he published Facing Catastrophe: Environmental Action for a Post-Katrina World, and just a few days after returning to CPR, he's published two op-eds on disaster preparedness and recovery.

In the Christian Science Monitor on April 13, he asked whether Japan's recovery from the recent tsunami and nuclear disaster would be "heavy-handed or hands-off"? He goes on to contrast the recovery efforts in Japan after a 1995 earthquake laid waste to the city of Kobe with the ongoing post-Katrina recovery in Verchick's home town of New Orleans. In Kobe, Verchick says, strong-willed Mayor Kazutoshi Sasayama developed a master plan for reconstructing the city, and pursued it with iron determination. Verchick writes,

Progress came at great cost. That “makeover” became for some a “takeover,” as residents of modest means saw their property downsized or expropriated. Japan’s emergency management office officially refused to allow government aid to go directly to residents (although some local governments ignored the edict), foisting …

April 29, 2011 by Ben Somberg
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We noted earlier this month that a U.S. Small Business Administration official had claimed that the danger of workplace noise was solved just as well with earplugs as it is with reducing the noise at its source -- despite extensive research to the contrary ("Presidential Appointee at SBA Maligns OSHA's Industrial Noise Proposal; Claims Ear Plugs 'Solve' the Problem").

The official, Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the SBA, has since given a slightly different line. From BNA's Occupational Safety and Health Reporter (4/28):

We strongly support regulations that protect worker safety and health," Sargeant said. "But with regard to the noise rule, we were unable to evaluate whether this proposal was necessary, as a matter of safety, or whether it was economically feasible.

If SBA has indeed not evaluated the safety necessity, it's troubling that Sargeant had previously made such a …

April 22, 2011 by Ben Somberg
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It's their favorite figure: $1.75 Trillion. Repeated ad nauseam in congressional hearings by members of congress and expert witnesses alike, it is the supposed annual cost of regulations, this according to a study from last year commissioned by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. Sponsors of anti-regulatory legislation like the number: Olympia Snowe and Tom Coburn included it in the 'findings' of their bill, while Geoff Davis, chief sponsor of the REINS Act, cites it regularly. It's been used by John Boehner and Eric Cantor, and House committee chairs Fred Upton, Darrell Issa, Lamar Smith, and Sam Graves. Conservative think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation are fond of it. A few Democrats have gotten in on the act, too: Mark Warner, proponent of his own anti-regulatory plan, has cited it, as has Nydia Velazquez, Ranking Member of …

April 21, 2011 by Alice Kaswan
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The Supreme Court arguments in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut on Tuesday raised profound issues about the respective role of the courts and administrative agencies in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, emissions that remain uncontrolled notwithstanding their significant climate impacts. As my CPR colleague Doug Kysar has noted, at times the Court appeared reluctant to embrace industry’s political question and prudential standing arguments, arguments that would undermine the courts’ traditional common law powers. If the Court rejects these jurisdictional arguments, the central issue would be whether EPA’s GHG regulatory actions under the Clean Air Act have “displaced” the federal common law of interstate nuisance.

If displacement is the critical issue, did the Court ask the right questions? For example, Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, and Breyer addressed the issue of institutional competence.  Directly and indirectly, their comments suggested that the plaintiff states were asking …

April 21, 2011 by Matthew Freeman
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Right about this time a year ago, Americans were learning about a massive explosion aboard an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico called the Deepwater Horizon that had occurred the day before. Video footage of the flame-engulfed rig began splashing across television screens, and we were told that 11 workers on the rig were “missing.” (In fact, those workers had been killed.)

Also unclear or unrevealed was the extent of the environmental harm that was being done. In the day-after stories, BP and the federal government expressed the view that pollution was not much of a concern. Here’s what the New York Times article said,

Officials said the pollution was considered minimal so far because most of the oil and gas was being burned up in the fire. “But that does have the potential to change,” said David Rainey, the vice president …

April 20, 2011 by Ben Somberg
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So far as regulatory safeguards are concerned, we've come a long way in 27 months. The Obama Administration started with federal agencies that had been devastated by eight years of an explicitly anti-regulatory president. Turning that around is not easy, and no President could do it in a day. So, as much as you see a lot of criticism in this space, you also see praise, because we've seen this Administration make important progress. From new rules on lead paint removal to construction crane safety to regulating greenhouse gases, there's a lot to applaud -- changes that will make real differences in people's lives.

But there are also a lot of rulemakings or other initiatives that fall somewhere in the "pending" category. Delay has a real cost in human health and lives. But the problem's not just that. It's that for many …

April 20, 2011 by Douglas Kysar
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Cross-posted from ACSblog.

In one of the most, er, hotly anticipated cases of its term, the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in the climate change nuisance suit of Connecticut v. American Electric Power. From the beginning of this litigation, pundits have questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to seek injunctive relief gradually abating the defendants’ greenhouse gas emissions. To critics, this form of relief – as opposed to, say, monetary damages – seems to highlight the complex and value-laden aspects of climate change as a policy problem, making judges more likely to dismiss the suit as lying beyond the ken of the judicial branch.

Tuesday's argument confirmed the pundits’ view, as even reliably liberal justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg greeted the plaintiffs’ claims with palpable skepticism. Justice Ginsburg’s money quote, which is being cited around the blogosphere, came when she told the plaintiffs that their prayer for relief “sounds …

April 19, 2011 by Ben Somberg
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Claudia Rodgers, Deputy Chief Council for the Office of Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration, testified earlier this month at a hearing conducted by a House Oversight and Government Reform sub-committee. The session ("Assessing The Impact of Greenhouse Gas Regulations on Small Business") was a sparsely attended affair on all sides of the room. But something important happened.

Rep. Jackie Speier asked Rodgers a series of questions (at 1:03:30 in the video) about the Office of Advocacy’s oft-cited report from September, by economists Nicole Crain and Mark Crain, which claims that the cost of regulations in the U.S. in 2008 was $1.75 trillion dollars. Representative Speier cited CPR’s recent report debunking the study. In response, Rodgers mostly gave little new information, telling Speier she'd get back to her. But then there was this:

Rep. Speier:

 ... Ms. Rodgers, does …

April 18, 2011 by Amy Sinden
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In politics, repeating something over and over again can sometimes make it stick, whether it's true or not. From Reagan’s welfare queens, to the specter of “socialized” medicine leading to imminent communist takeover, these sorts of myths often start on the far right but then move surprisingly far to the center. And as the EPA has begun to move forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, we've seen one of these myths begin to take shape. This time it’s the notion that the Clean Air Act is a bad tool for addressing climate change.

At the heart of it is this: a lot of regulated industries and their allies don't want any limits at all on how much carbon dioxide they can release into the atmosphere. But the Clean Air Act says that EPA must regulate any air …

April 15, 2011 by Sidney Shapiro
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Congress charged the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with the job of representing the interests of small business before regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As an agency of the federal government, it has an obligation to taxpayers to get its facts straight before it speaks. Lately, it has ignored this basic obligation, most notably sponsoring a study that used flawed methodology to claim that regulations impose $1.75 trillion in costs every year.

Now, Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the SBA, has upped his attack on OSHA’s efforts to update its noise regulation, making assertions that are highly misleading and at times simply wrong. In an interview last week with the Phoenix Business Journal, Sargeant claimed:

The OSHA rule was a solution to a problem that had already been solved. Basically …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 29, 2011

Disaster Planning and Recovery: Verchick Op-Eds in Christian Science Monitor and New Orleans Times-Picayune

April 29, 2011

SBA Official Changes Tune on OSHA Noise Initiative; Says His Office Was 'Unable to Evaluate' Possible Safety Benefits

April 22, 2011

New Congressional Research Service Report Finds Major Trouble in SBA's Regulatory Costs Study

April 21, 2011

Parsing the AEP v. Connecticut Argument: Did the Court Ask the Right Questions?

April 21, 2011

Steinzor BP Spill Op-Ed in Baltimore Sun: Learning and Acting Slowly

April 20, 2011

Mr. President, Finish These Rules: CPR Report Identifies 12 Key Environmental, Health, and Safety Initiatives Administration Must Complete

April 20, 2011

American Electric Power v. Connecticut: The Good News