From the farm fields of California to the low-lying neighborhoods along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, structural racism and legally sanctioned inequities are combining with the effects of the climate crisis to put people in danger. The danger is manifest in heat stroke suffered by migrant farmworkers and failing sewer systems that back up into homes in formerly redlined neighborhoods. Fortunately, public interest attorneys across the country are attuned to these problems and are finding ways to use the law to force employers and polluters to adapt to the realities of the climate crisis.
The second installment in CPR's climate justice webinar series showcased some of the important work these public interest advocates are doing and explored how their efforts are affected by enforcement policy and resource changes at regulatory agencies, from the federal level on down. Scroll down to watch a recording of the hour-long discussion featuring Cynthia Rice of California Rural Legal Assistance, Jon Mueller of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Joel Mintz, CPR Board member and professor at Nova Southeastern Shepard Broad College of Law.
Here are some points of discussion you won't want to miss:
The federal Clean Water Act has been a resounding success as a tool for restoring our nation's waterways and preserving wetlands and other vital components of our ecosystems. But that success depends, in part, on restricting development in ecologically sensitive areas. That's why the Trump administration has proposed to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act's protections. Not by amending the law, mind you – that wasn't possible when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, much less now. Instead, the Trump administration is trying to weaken the Clean Water Act by redefining what it means for something to be a "water of the United States."
If history is any guide, and CPR Member Scholars' assessment of the proposal suggests it will be, the Trump administration's proposal will fail. It will fail because, as Member Scholar William Buzbee recently put it to a Washington Post reporter inquiring …
For two years, President Trump has attempted to steer federal policy in ways that undercut core American values. His vision of government – to the extent one can divine a coherent vision – lacks compassion, fairness, a commitment to equal voice and opportunity, and concern for the long-term threats that families and communities cannot address on their own. Instead, the president has embarked on a campaign to remake the core institutions of our democracy in a new, authoritarian mold. And along the way, he has set an expectation for his administration that its agenda and his personal political and financial aspirations carry more weight than the rule of law.
Tuesday's midterms showed that Americans are tired of Congress rubber-stamping the president's actions and letting his mean-spirited rhetoric become normalized. The newly minted Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will be sworn in in early January with a mandate …
Today, D.C. Circuit Court Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh begins his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the disturbing lack of transparency around his service to the country during the George W. Bush administration, the show will go on.
We asked CPR's Member Scholars and staff what they would ask Judge Kavanaugh if they had the opportunity. Here are some highlights:
You Can't Put a Price on Everything
Ask a parent what they would pay to end the suffering of an asthmatic child, or a miner with black lung disease what he would pay to live life unencumbered by an oxygen tank. There is no meaningful answer – the opportunity to live a healthy life is priceless. Yet your opinion in White Stallion Energy Center v. EPA suggests that monetizing these sorts of regulatory benefits ought to be standard practice for all regulatory …
Andrew Wheeler will be on the hot seat today when he heads to Capitol Hill for his first appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as Acting Administrator of the EPA. Senators initially scheduled the hearing when Scott Pruitt was Administrator and his ethical problems had reached such epic proportions that his party's support was starting to erode.
With Pruitt out and Wheeler in, today's hearing has the potential to be more about environmental policy than conflicts of interest and failures of management – a welcome change. We will be following closely to see if Andrew Wheeler will be as committed to these four retrograde policies as Scott Pruitt was:
The one-two punch of Pruitt's proposals to censor science and warp environmental economics. It is no wonder morale at EPA plummeted. There was a time when a person could make a career at EPA by building …
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last night, President Donald Trump set the stage for a contentious debate about American social and economic welfare in the decades to come, nominating a Washington insider with a narrow worldview to the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh's opinions on issues related to reproductive and civil rights are at the forefront of many voters' minds, but there's another danger that deserves just as much attention: What Kavanaugh would do on issues involving protections for consumers, workers, and the environment if confirmed by the Senate.
Trump and the current congressional majority are busy with their attempts at "deconstructing the administrative state." Kavanaugh might tip the balance in that direction on the Supreme Court, as well, particularly given his record of animosity against sensible safeguards during his time on the …
CPR President Rob Verchick recently sat down to talk with one of our newest Member Scholars, Professor Laurie Ristino of Vermont Law School, about the connections between climate change, food security, and policymaking tools like the Farm Bill that could be better used to promote sustainable agricultural practices.
We’re excited to share an audio recording of that conversation here as a “soft launch” of a new product at CPR – our “Connect the Dots” podcast. It’s a work in progress. Our first mini-series will focus on climate change adaptation, with episodes coming soon that explore issues related to climate-driven displacement, migration, and relocation; occupational health and safety protections; and water quality restoration in the United States.
In this first episode, Verchick and Ristino:
It was an early holiday present to the nation's biggest polluters. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in early December that he was drastically changing the way EPA reviews polluters' compliance – or lack thereof – with the Clean Air Act. Today on Capitol Hill, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond will explain that this dramatic shift in policy is a complete abnegation of EPA's statutory responsibilities and, beyond that, puts lives and economic opportunity at risk.
What's especially valuable about Hammond's testimony is the context she provides. Clean Air Act regulations are betes noires for our country's most vocal opponents of strong public health protections. That is because when EPA enforces the Clean Air Act …
Next Tuesday, President Trump will share his view of the state of our union. And if his words correlate with his actions over the last year, the dominant theme will be one of division and disruption. Like no president in recent history, Donald Trump has pushed U.S. residents to cordon ourselves off into dueling tribes whose theories of governance and policymaking diverge and whose basic facts and language are starting to split in disturbing ways.
But on whichever side of the divide each of us finds ourselves, most of us face some common challenges in daily life, including keeping ourselves and our kids safe and healthy, earning fair pay for a day's work, and steering clear of the predatory business practices that are difficult to spot without graduate-level work in deciphering fine print.
Until this time last year, we had federal agencies teeming with dedicated …
The full scope of the heartbreaking devastation wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma — the human, economic and environmental toll — may not be completely understood for years. As we do what we can to help the victims, it is also time to think about how we can prepare for the inevitable here in Baltimore. After all, Baltimore floods more than most other cities in the United States and gets little help from our inadequate water infrastructure.
Every time a major storm visits our region, millions of gallons of sewage overflow from Baltimore's antiquated sewers. Worse, our sewer system has failed time and again under even the smallest rainfalls. In August, federal, state and city regulators and lawyers finalized a deal to modify the legal settlement originally signed in 2002 to upgrade sewer infrastructure by 2016.
The good news is …