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Feb. 8, 2022 by Darya Minovi

CPR Pushes Bills to Protect Waterways and Public Health in Maryland and Virginia: Part II

Last week, my colleagues and I advocated for a pair of clean water bills in Maryland and Virginia, which were spurred by research completed by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR). One bill would create a Private Well Safety Program in Maryland, and the other would create an aboveground chemical storage tank registration program in Virginia.

Both laws are sorely needed. This two-part blog series explains why. Part I, which ran yesterday, explores our collaborative work to protect clean drinking water in Maryland. Today, we look at our efforts to protect Virginia’s health and environment from toxic chemical spills.

As climate change intensifies, Virginia’s coastal and riverine communities are increasingly under threat of sea-level rise, hurricanes, and storm surge. Research published in 2019 by my colleague David Flores, a senior policy analyst at CPR, and CPR Member Scholar Noah Sachs found that flooding not only impacts socially vulnerable communities but also increases risks of toxic spills and releases at many chemical and hazardous facilities in the commonwealth.

One gap that heightens this risk: lack of regulations for aboveground tanks that store dangerous chemicals.

Aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) storing hazardous substances are not regulated by the U.S. Environmental …

Feb. 2, 2022 by Robert Glicksman
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During the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior undermined its statutory obligations to protect lands and natural resources managed by the federal government. It also accelerated the extraction of fossil fuels from federal lands and constructed barriers to a shift to renewable energy, hindering efforts to abate climate disruption.

On March 15, 2021, the Senate confirmed Deb Haaland as new secretary of the department, which houses the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — three agencies that together are responsible for managing millions of acres of some of the nation's most precious terrain.

Before Haaland's confirmation, the Center for Progressive Reform identified five priorities for the department. Here is an update on progress so far.

  1. Restore curbs on methane waste. In his first week in office, President Biden issued an executive order that enunciated a policy …

Feb. 1, 2022 by Jake Moore
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Virginia's recent environmental and climate laws have been heralded as among the nation's most progressive. In recent years, Virginia passed landmark laws supporting renewable energy and environmental justice and joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, priming it to address the challenges posed by growing flood risks, climate-related disasters, and industry-related public health crises.

However, Gov. Glenn Youngkin's election has shrouded Virginia's green future in gray.

Youngkin's campaign rhetoric on climate change ranged from hostile to ambitious. Despite some positive appraisals of renewable energy projects, his statements and early Cabinet nominations make clear that he opposes regulatory and legislative landmarks that support the state's climate resilience.

To start, Youngkin has repeatedly promised to repeal the bipartisan Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), which mandates a 100 percent decarbonized power grid by 2045. To achieve this ambitious goal, energy producers are required to meet emission reduction benchmarks and increase their …

Feb. 1, 2022 by Darya Minovi
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This op-ed was originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Climate change is quickly evolving into climate catastrophe, and there’s a narrow window of time to do something about it. While the world works on solutions, there’s surprisingly little focus on the chemical industry, which accounts for roughly 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions — as well as other environmental harms.

Weak or nonexistent regulations of the industry have led to widespread cancer, respiratory illnesses, and even facility explosions, primarily in low-income communities and communities of color.

But the industry essentially has a free pass to continue business as usual — it just keeps on keepin’ on, with little accountability.

The same holds true when it comes to the industry’s contributions to our warming planet, which is happening in three major ways:

First, fossil fuels are the “feedstocks” for …

Jan. 26, 2022 by Karen Sokol
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On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the first of an expected wave of cases challenging governmental action to address the climate crisis. The court’s grant of four petitions seeking review in this case—two by coal companies and two by states—portends that the six conservative justices will erect significant barriers to meaningful climate policy and will continue to interfere with democratic governance in disregard of the rule of law.

The issue presented in the case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, concerns the EPA’s authority to regulate pursuant to its mandate in the Clean Air Act. Oddly, there’s no regulation in effect for the court to review; instead, it will ostensibly review the interpretation of the act adopted by the Obama administration nearly a decade ago, which gave the EPA the …

Jan. 21, 2022 by Alejandro Camacho
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On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to head up the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This is the U.S. Interior Department agency charged with overseeing national monuments and other public lands, as well as key aspects of energy development.

A longtime conservation advocate, Stone-Manning has worked for the National Wildlife Federation, served as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and advisor to Sen. Jon Tester, and led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality. Just three months since her confirmation, she is beginning to reverse the previous administration’s harmful policies and ensure our public lands are conserved and used in ways that benefit us all.

Last year, the Center for Progressive Reform laid out five priorities for her and the agency. Here’s an update on progress so far:

1. Restore or expand all targeted national …

Jan. 13, 2022 by Sandra Zellmer
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A global movement is underway to protect 30 percent of the Earth's lands and waters by 2030. More than seventy countries support this goal to combat climate change and slow the pace of species extinction, both of which are accelerating at an unprecedented rate. The two threats are closely intertwined. The greatest drivers of species extinction are climate change and habitat loss; by the same token, the loss of intact, functioning habitat and biodiversity diminishes the capacity for climate resilience.

In the United States, one of President Biden's earliest executive orders, issued in his first week in office, established a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and water and 30 percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030. The order proclaims an "all of government" approach to …

Jan. 12, 2022 by Johnathan Clark
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On the morning of January 9, 2014, residents of Charleston, West Virginia, noticed an unusual licorice-like odor in their tap water. Within hours, a federal state of emergency was declared as 300,000 West Virginia residents were advised to avoid contact with their tap water, forcing those affected to rely on bottled water until the water supply was restored over one week later.

Even after service was restored, traces of the chemical remained detectable in Charleston's water supply months after the spill. The economy of the region was brought to an abrupt halt and nearly 400 people sought emergency room care with symptoms of nausea, headaches, and vomiting.

The cause of the contamination was methylcyclohexane methanol (“MHCM”), a chemical used in industrial coal processing. Roughly 11,000 gallons of the substance had leaked from a severely corroded aboveground storage tank located a mile and a half north …

Jan. 6, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration announced on Monday that it would not meet a February target date to issue a revised definition of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It still plans to issue a revised definition later in the year. That sounds like a very technical issue. But it actually determines the extent to which the federal government can prevent water pollution and protect wetlands across the nation. The Biden proposal basically calls for case-by-case decisions about federal jurisdiction. It's also the latest chapter in one of the most snarled-up regulatory issue of our times.

The story begins with the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act. The act requires permits for dredge-and-fill operations and for pollution discharges into "navigable waters." Traditionally, navigable waters were tidal waters or waterways that could be used for commercial …

Dec. 9, 2021 by Darya Minovi
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The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) joined Coming Clean and more than 100 organizations calling for major transformations to the chemical industry — a significant yet overlooked contributor to the climate crisis and toxic pollution in communities.

The groups unveiled new guidance this week for regulators, policymakers, advocates, and industry to phase out chemicals and their adverse impacts. The guidance – contained in the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals – was first developed in 2004 by grassroots, labor, health, and environmental justice groups and updated this year to strengthen recommendations as the climate changes.

The updated charter includes 10 planks, or priority areas, alongside reports highlighting policy solutions to phase out persistent, toxic, and cumulative chemical pollution. CPR contributed to the background report for Plank #1, which calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), policymakers, and businesses to address the chemical and petrochemical industry’s contributions to climate …

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