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Nov. 29, 2017 by

Clean Water Laws Need to Catch Up with Science

The field of environmental law often involves tangential explorations of scientific concepts. Lately, one scientific term – hydrologic connectivity – seems to keep finding its way into much of my work. As for many others, this principle of hydrology became familiar to me thanks to its place at the center of one of the biggest fights in the history of environmental law, spilling onto the front pages and into the public consciousness

Over the last several decades, a pair of Supreme Court opinions resulted in complete confusion over where federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act begins and ends – that is, over which waterways it protects. The Obama EPA spent years examining the best available science to develop a rule to bring clarity and certainty and draw jurisdictional boundaries roughly where they existed before the high court got involved. The new rule drew the ire of conservative activists and resource extraction industries, while the subsequent repeal of the rule by the Trump administration has resulted in widespread condemnation by environmental advocates and, in particular, administrative law scholars

What is interesting about this saga is that it is rooted in the issue of federal jurisdiction, not necessarily pollution reduction. But hydrologic connectivity is …

Nov. 28, 2017 by Matthew Freeman
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If there's a defining value to the tax bill now working its way through Congress, it's greed. How else to account for a bill that wipes out tax deductions for health care expenses, double-taxes the money you pay in state and local income taxes, eliminates the deduction for interest on student loans, and at the same time eliminates the tax that's now paid on estates in excess of $5.5 million, eliminates the alternative minimum tax, and slashes corporate taxes, all while adding $1.5 trillion to the federal debt? The principal objective of this bill is to make rich people richer, and it accomplishes that by squeezing pretty much everybody else – some right away, some in a few years.

Of course, greed is at the heart of much of President Trump's policy agenda. In its service, he's rolled back environmental regulations …

Nov. 28, 2017 by Nina Mendelson
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Originally posted at Notice & Comment, a blog of the Yale Journal on Regulation and the American Bar Association Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice. Reprinted with permission.

On Friday, November 24, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray named Leandra English, the longtime CFPB Chief of Staff, to the post of Deputy Director. Based on legislation specific to the CFPB, that put her in a position to serve as Acting Director upon his departure. Cordray then resigned. A few hours after Cordray resigned, the White House announced that President Trump had selected OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to serve as CFPB Acting Director, invoking the President’s powers under the more general Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Unfortunately, President Trump’s actions may result in needless—and illegal—chaos at the CFPB. The President surely retains the power to choose the next CFPB Director, but only by …

Nov. 27, 2017 by Joel Mintz
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The Trump EPA's shrinking commitment to enforcement of the nation's environmental laws has focused new attention on state-level enforcement and the extent to which it does or does not address problems of environmental pollution and threats to public health. One recent – and ongoing – controversy, involving toxic chemical contamination of a river in North Carolina by a large and profitable corporation, provides some insights into both the promise and the shortcomings of state environmental law enforcement. It also sheds light on some aspects of contemporary corporate culture and the salutary role that careful investigative journalism and public opinion can sometimes play in prodding state regulators to respond effectively to corporate pollution.

In 2012, a group of scientific researchers discovered that GenX, a fluorinated compound, was present in North Carolina's Cape Fear River – a finding that was confirmed the following year by a second team of …

Nov. 20, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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On Thanksgiving Day, families across the country will sit down for huge feasts, filling their bellies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy. My mouth is watering just writing about it. In many households, it's tradition for each person at the table to say what they're thankful for and express their appreciation for the meal in front of them. But when it comes to that delicious meal, we often overlook the workers inside the poultry slaughter facilities and processing plants who do the incredibly labor-intensive and dangerous work required to bring our turkeys from farm to table. This year's the perfect time to get woke

At this very moment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering a petition that would eliminate a standard that sets the maximum speed of poultry plants' "evisceration lines" – that's the line of hooks or …

Nov. 17, 2017 by
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Everyone should be paying attention to the tax "reform" bills making their way through Congress. Whether you are a concerned citizen, a volunteer activist, or a career advocate, chances are the tax legislation will do much more than increase or lower your tax bill.

Much of the mainstream media and financial press, along with some public finance scholars and think tanks, are doing a thorough job of explaining what the tax bills will mean for the rich and the middle class, for corporate taxes overall and some specific tax deductions and loopholes.

It is worthwhile to focus our attention on the overall economic impact of the proposed tax cut and how it will further increase social inequality in America. Certainly it is worth asking why we so desperately need a tax cut when the rich keep getting even richer, corporate profits are booming, the stock markets are …

Nov. 16, 2017 by David Flores
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Those who take public safeguards seriously are well aware of the potential consequences that arise from the dangerous combination of poorly written pollution permits and lax – even absent – enforcement. From construction sites with failing erosion and sediment controls to ammonia and bacteria-spewing concentrated animal feeding operations, our waterways, their users, and vulnerable populations in the pathway of pollution suffer the consequences. Starting today, we add industrial stormwater to the ignoble list of poorly regulated sources of environmental pollution in Maryland. 

Over the last year, the Center for Progressive Reform and the Environmental Integrity Project have collaborated to investigate Maryland's program for regulation of industrial stormwater, building on earlier work to sue the state to improve its industrial stormwater permit and to bring rigorous enforcement against facilities flouting the permit's most basic requirements

Sadly, our findings confirm our initial suspicions. Permit violations and unacceptable levels of …

Nov. 14, 2017 by James Goodwin
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Today, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond is testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing that will examine four bills that amount to "rifle shot" attacks on the Clean Air Act's public health and environmental protections. Hammond's testimony before the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee casts in powerful terms what is at stake with these bills, highlighting how they contribute to the Trump administration's own assault on public safeguards. She also explains how these bills and the administration's actions are grossly out of step with the policy goals of the Clean Air Act and its more than 40 years of success in saving lives and protecting the environment. 

Without getting into the technical details, these bills are designed to shield tiny but favored industry groups – namely, manufacturers of bricks, wood stoves, after-market auto racing equipment …

Nov. 6, 2017 by Brian Gumm
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In an article just published in the Environmental Law Institute's Environmental Law Reporter, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Bob Sussman examines the tenure of Administrator Scott Pruitt thus far. I recently talked with Mr. Sussman about Pruitt's so-called "back to basics" approach at EPA, the rollbacks of environmental protections he has overseen so far, and Pruitt's numerous favors for special interests. 

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has made a big deal out of his "back to basics" mantra at the agency. What do you think he means by that, and are his actions living up to his words? 

Although Scott Pruitt's words suggest a renewed focus on the fundamentals of environmental protection – clean air, clean water, and safer chemicals – his actions tell a different story. Instead of doubling down on traditional programs safeguarding air, water, and land, Pruitt's tenure so far has …

Nov. 2, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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Scott Mugno, Vice President for Safety, Sustainability, and Vehicle Maintenance at Fed Ex Ground in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is President Trump's pick to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Although whispers of Mugno's possible nomination had spread across Washington, D.C., over the past several months, not much has been said about his credentials for the job. One major concern is Mugno's connection to the notoriously anti-regulatory U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for which he is currently the chairman of the OSHA subcommittee of the group's Labor Relations Committee. And as Jordan Barab, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA, highlights in his excellent blog post on the nomination, Mugno expressed interest in sunsetting OSHA standards in comments he made at a Chamber event last year. 

When Mugno goes before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for confirmation hearings …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Nov. 29, 2017

Clean Water Laws Need to Catch Up with Science

Nov. 28, 2017

An Antidote to Greed

Nov. 28, 2017

More Thoughts on the CFPB Puzzle: President Trump Can Select Someone to Run the CFPB Only if the Senate Has an Opportunity to Confirm

Nov. 27, 2017

North Carolina v. Chemours: Early Reflections on an Ongoing State Environmental Enforcement Case

Nov. 20, 2017

Beyond the Dinner Table -- U.S. Poultry Plant Workers at Risk

Nov. 17, 2017

How Tax 'Reform' Impacts the Bay -- and Everything Else

Nov. 16, 2017

New Report: Toxic Industrial Stormwater Widespread, Maryland Enforcement Seldom Seen