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June 28, 2013 by Matthew Freeman

CPR's John Echeverria's NY Times Op-Ed on Supreme Court's Latest 'Takings' Decision

CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria has an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times on the Supreme Court's end-of-term decision in a land-use case, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. Although the case has been somewhat overlooked amidst the Court's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, and its landmark decisions on same-sex marriage, it has long-term and critical implications. Echeverria warns that the decision will:

result in long-lasting harm to America’s communities. That’s because the ruling creates a perverse incentive for municipal governments to reject applications from developers rather than attempt to negotiate project designs that might advance both public and private goals — and it makes it hard for communities to get property owners to pay to mitigate any environmental damage they may cause.

The majority opinion in the case, written by Justice Alito, reverses a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court -- a chain of events with eerie overtones for anyone with a 13-year memory! The ruling blocks a Florida water management district's denial of a developer's application to "fill more than three acres of wetlands in order to build a small shopping center."  The district had requested that the builder either …

June 28, 2013 by Erin Kesler
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Last night, the Senate confirmed Howard Shelanski as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget.

As we've written about before, the confirmation of Shelanski as head of OIRA comes at a criticial juncture. OIRA is tasked with reviewing rules proposed by federal agencies. Presently,  of the 139 rules under review at OIRA, 71 are well beyond the 90-day review limit imposed by Executive Order 12866.  Below is Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro's reaction to the confirmation:

Now that he's been approved, Administrator Shelanski must begin the critical task of reinvigorating our calcified regulatory system. From clearing the backlog of overdue regulations stuck at OIRA in violation of the required deadline for finishing review to working with other Administration officials to identify ways to help implement President Obama's climate plan, thenew …

June 27, 2013 by Erin Kesler
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Yesterday,  The Hill published an opinion piece by Center for Progressive Reform President Rena Steinzor.

The piece, entitled, "Toxic chemical bill trumps state rights" can be read here.

Steinzor writes:

We read with dismay… the drastic provisions of legislation authored by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and the late Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) deceptively entitled the Chemical Safety “Improvement” Act.  This misguided effort to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, pronounced TOSCA like the opera) would make all federal rulemaking “determinative” of toxic chemical exposure limits, thereby freezing in their tracks state efforts to pass standards that are more stringent than what the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has managed to cough up.  Never mind that certain kinds of chemical pollution are far worse in some states than they are at the national level, and forget the notion that democracy is strongest when citizens are closer to …

June 25, 2013 by Lisa Heinzerling
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At a speech this afternoon at Georgetown University, President Obama outlined a series of aggressive steps aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing the nation to adapt to the now unavoidable effects of climate change. Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling issued the following reaction:

The President’s speech offered exactly what many of us have been waiting to hear from him: A solid commitment to use the tools available to the EPA to finally get the federal government out of slow gear on climate change. In particular, by extending emissions limits to existing power plants, he’s taking dead aim at the most severe environmental problem facing the planet. Protests from industry and its allies on the Hill overlook an important reality: The Clean Air Act already gives the EPA authority to adopt such rules, and the Supreme Court has so ruled.

Heinzerling …

June 24, 2013 by Erin Kesler
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Is the annual cost of federal regulation really $1.75 trillion?  Do regulations really hinder job creation and economic growth? Is it true that agencies are free to issue costly regulations without legal authority or political accountability? These are just some of the myths spread by supporters of legislation to further weaken the ability of protector agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to carry out their congressionally mandated mission of safeguarding the public.

The subject will be explored in detail at a congressional briefing on June 25, organized by the Center for Progressive Reform and the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, and is hosted by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). The briefing is open to the media.

What: Congressional Briefing: Anti-Regulatory Myths: What Regulatory Critics Don't Tell You …

June 21, 2013 by Michael Patoka
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About 15 percent of all foods we consume are imported. Looking at some particular categories, the numbers are far more striking: imports make up 91 percent of our seafood, 60 percent of our fruits and vegetables, and 61 percent of our honey. Most of these imports come from developing countries that lack any effective health and safety regulation—like China, which has had a seemingly endless run of food safety scandals and yet supplies 50 percent of our apple juice, 80 percent of our tilapia, and 31 percent of our garlic.

Unsanitary practices in these countries are well-documented: Vietnamese farmers are known to send shrimp to America in tubs of ice made from bacteria-infested water; and Mexican laborers are often given filthy bathrooms and no place to wash their hands before gathering onions and grape tomatoes for export. Despite the obvious risks of adulteration and contamination, the …

June 20, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
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Hot on the heels of a USDA Inspector General’s report that highlights the failings of privatizing pork inspection, the House yesterday approved an amendment to the Farm Bill that pressures USDA to institute the same type of system in the poultry slaughter industry.  The poultry rule, which we’ve written about in this space before, is not yet in final form, but the poultry industry and its supporters are pushing it in that direction.  The Inspector General’s report adds to the growing list of reasons why the USDA should scrap the proposed poultry rule and come up with a better way to modernize food safety inspection programs.

The USDA Inspector General reviewed a 15 year-old pilot program in which swine slaughter facilities were granted waivers from current regulations, plant employees were given the responsibility of certain inspection tasks, USDA inspectors were moved off of the …

June 19, 2013 by Christine Klein
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It’s been more than 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared that water is an article of commerce and that Nebraska’s attempts to prevent the export of “its” groundwater to neighboring Colorado violated the dormant Commerce Clause.1 The high Court did not return directly to the issue until last week’s ruling in Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann.2 3 This time, a unanimous Court ruled againt the would-be exporter--Texas--and its effort to diver a portion of the Kiamichi River from a point within neighboring Oklahoma..

The Court struck a blow to one of Texas’ largest water districts, which supplies the exploding populations of the state’s north central region including Fort Worth, Arlington, and Mansfield.4 The ruling thwarted Tarrant’s attempt to obtain a permit from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to divert 310,000 acre-feet from the relatively …

June 18, 2013 by Rena Steinzor
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Later in this space, we plan to discuss the many and varied failings of a proposal in the Senate to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. Unfortunately, the proposal is the joint work product of conservative Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and liberal Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who died two weeks ago and therefore won’t have the chance to fix the legislation that is so unworthy of his name.

But before we take on that misguided proposal, we wanted to pay tribute to the Senator’s larger legacy. Frank Lautenberg was a tireless advocate for progressive causes, who played a key role in many of the environmental and health battles of the last three decades. He was a relentless and effective advocate for the people of the “Garden” state, which in addition to its reputation for farming on lush land, also holds the tragic distinction of hosting …

June 14, 2013 by Sandra Zellmer
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The 2013 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), as adopted by the Senate on May 13, S.601, would authorize $12 billion in federal spending on flood protection, dam and levee projects, and port improvements.  A new version of WRDA is passed every few years, and it is the primary vehicle for authorizing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ water projects and for implementing changes with respect to the Corps’ water resource policies.

S.601 contains several notable provisions, not the least of which is the so-called “States’ Water Rights Act” Amendment.  This amendment would bar the Corps from charging a storage fee for “surplus water” drawn from Missouri River reservoirs.  For the purposes of Section 6 of the 1944 Flood Control Act, which governs Missouri River operations, “surplus water” is defined as water stored in a Corps of Engineers reservoir that is not required because the congressionally …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
June 28, 2013

CPR's John Echeverria's NY Times Op-Ed on Supreme Court's Latest 'Takings' Decision

June 28, 2013

Statement by CPR Scholar Sid Shapiro on the Senate's Confirmation of Howard Shelanski as Head of OIRA

June 27, 2013

CPR President Rena Steinzor: Toxic chemical bill trumps state rights

June 25, 2013

CPR's Heinzerling Reacts to President's Climate Change Speech

June 24, 2013

Congressional Briefing: Anti-Regulatory Myths: What Regulatory Critics Don't Tell You

June 21, 2013

Three Food Safety Rules Grow Moldy at OIRA, as Import-Related Outbreaks Continue

June 20, 2013

House Amendment to Farm Bill Would Spur USDA Action on Flawed Poultry Slaughter Rule