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April 21, 2022 by Minor Sinclair

Protecting Future Generations, Just as Earlier Ones Sought to Protect Us

This blog post is the third in a series outlining the Center for Progressive Reform's strategic direction. We previously published "Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government" and "A Turning Point on Climate."

I'm hopeful the recent disco revival won't last but that other resurging movements of the 1960s and '70s will. That era saw the birth and explosive growth of the modern environmental movement alongside other sweeping actions for peace and equality.

Public pressure led to critical environmental laws that continue to protect our natural resources and our health and safety. In 1970, Congress created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and enacted the Clean Air Act, which authorizes the federal government to limit air pollution, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established the first nationwide program to protect workers from on-the-job harm. Two years later came passage of the Clean Water Act, a landmark amendment to existing anti-pollution law that requires our government to restore and maintain clean and healthy waterways across the land.

That was some era — the last great upsurge of government protections.

As successful as those solutions have been in cleaning up our air and water and making our workplaces …

April 12, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Trump administration left a trail of regulatory destruction behind it. Cleaning up the mess and issuing new regulations is Priority #1 for the Biden administration. Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan, the effort is beginning to pick up steam.

EPA has begun the year with several major new regulatory efforts. No one of them is transformative standing alone, but their cumulative impact will be substantially cleaner air and lower carbon emissions.

February 28. EPA proposed an unexpectedly strong expansion of the existing rules governing interstate air pollution. The proposal would strengthen existing limits for coal and gas-fired power plants, but it would also add other categories of industry such as cement. In addition, it adds western states like California to the rule's coverage. EPA estimates that the benefits of the rule …

April 11, 2022 by John Knox
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Last month, I had the opportunity to do something truly extraordinary: testify before a U.S. House subcommittee on behalf of legislation with genuine bipartisan support.

The hearing, held March 29 in the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife (WOW), drew little attention from the mainstream news media. But it is newsworthy nonetheless: The legislation would strengthen human rights protections for Indigenous peoples and local communities around national parks and other protected areas around the world, by conditioning U.S. funding for them on compliance with basic human rights protections. 

It is especially remarkable in the current political environment that the bill resulted from a bipartisan investigation and that it has support from both Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.). As far as I know, it’s the first bill to be co-sponsored by these two influential …

April 5, 2022 by Jake Moore
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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) recently made a statement bashing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the East Coast's regional cap-and-trade program intended to reduce climate pollution and energy costs for low-income households. In attacking the program, Youngkin repeated questionable claims about its costs, impacts, and benefits and made clear his desire to move the Commonwealth backwards on climate policy and the clean energy transition.

Virginia joined RGGI to meet the goals outlined in the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) and Environmental Justice Act (EJA), which were passed in 2020. Funds generated through RGGI are directed toward critical energy efficiency programs for low-income households and flood prevention.

Youngkin has long expressed interest in removing Virginia from RGGI and, through his recent executive order, began his attempt to officially leave the program. The order requires the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct an analysis of the …

April 4, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration is slowly grinding away at an important regulatory task: reconsidering the air quality standards for particulates and ozone. Setting those standards is an arduous and time-consuming process, requiring consideration of reams of technical data. For instance, a preliminary staff report on fine particulates (PM2.5) is over 600 pages long. When the process is done, the result will not only be better protection of public health. It will also be a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming agents.

Quick legal background: The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set national ambient air quality standards or NAAQS (pronounced "knacks"). They are supposed to be set at a level that, "allowing an adequate margin of safety, are requisite to protect the public health." They're supposed to be revised every five …

March 31, 2022 by Brian Gumm
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A couple of weeks ago, I traveled back to my home state to accept an award on behalf of the Center for Progressive Reform. The first-ever De Prey Peace Awards, named for Sheboygan, Wisconsin, peace activist Ceil De Prey, honor individuals and organizations whose work, volunteerism, and advocacy contribute to peace, a stronger democracy, and a better, more inclusive world for future generations.

Over the course of her life, De Prey has advocated for peace and worked to improve the lives of those around her. This included her past work as a medical researcher and volunteer efforts in every community she lived in. In just one example, for many years, First Congregational United Church of Christ of Sheboygan served what it called “Ceil’s Meal,” which brought together area residents from all walks of life to share meals. Many of the dishes featured at the events were …

March 24, 2022 by M. Isabelle Chaudry
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Women’s History Month isn’t just a time to recognize achievements made throughout the decades to advance women’s rights and demand equity. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate women making history today, the ones in our unwritten history books.

For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, if confirmed, will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Judge Jackson, a former clerk for retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, graduated from Harvard Law School and served as a federal district and appellate court judge in Washington, D.C. Before serving as a judge, she worked for two years as a federal public defender, a vitally important role and an experience that few judges share. Indeed, she would be the first Supreme Court justice to ever have held such a position.

Shalanda Baker, a Member Scholar on leave …

March 22, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

In describing cost-benefit analysis to students, I've often told them that the "cost" side of the equation is pretty simple. And it does seem simple: just get some engineers to figure out how industry can comply and run some spreadsheets of the costs. But this seemingly simple calculation turns out to be riddled with uncertainties, particularly when you're talking about regulating the energy industry. Those uncertainties need more attention in designing regulations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confronted some of these issues recently in its reevaluation of a regulation limiting mercury emissions from coal power plants. (You might wonder why EPA was taking this look backwards; the reason was basically that the U.S. Supreme Court told them to do so.) In 2011, EPA had estimated that the compliance cost would work out to …

March 21, 2022 by Alexandra Klass, Hannah Wiseman
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This op-ed was originally published by Bloomberg Law. Reproduced with permission. Published March 17, 2022. Copyright 2022 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. 800-372-1033. For further use, please visit http://www.bna.com/copyright-permission-request/

In the wake of recent high-profile electric power failures, numerous policymakers and politicians have asserted an inherent tension between the aims of clean energy and grid reliability. One Texas regulator declared that the best response to the hundreds of deaths caused by last year’s blackouts was for the state never to build another wind turbine again—even though the failure to weatherize natural gas infrastructure has been diagnosed as the blackouts’ primary cause.

At the same time, large utilities such as Duke Energy have proposed major new investments in natural gas generation, citing the need for reliability.

These calls for new fossil fuel investments in the name of reliability are a dangerous …

March 16, 2022 by Catalina Gonzalez
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This is the first post in a series on climate justice in California.

State officials in California are leading an extensive multisector planning effort to develop the 2022 Scoping Plan, the third update to California’s climate mitigation strategy. The new plan will outline a pathway for statewide action toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions (i.e., carbon neutrality) no later than 2045.

California first established its distinctive planning approach for developing coordinated emissions reduction measures that also advance the state’s other climate and environmental justice goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 (AB32).

AB32 also established the first statewide emissions target limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and charged the California Air Resources Board (CARB) with developing and adopting a new scoping plan every five years. The first scoping plan was developed in …

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