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April 15, 2019 by Matt Shudtz

CPR Member Scholars to EPA: Clean Water Rule Rollback Based on Bad Law, Weak Science

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 about the administration's string of court losses on regulatory matters, the administration has once again "made it very easy for the courts to reject them because they're not doing their homework."

In their comments on the proposal, CPR Member Scholars touch on three ways EPA has again been a lackadaisical student of …

April 12, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Every day, it seems that there is a headline about some investigation involving campaign finance violations, the White House, or the actions of some foreign power. Perhaps that's all the bandwidth that Congress has. But there are other areas calling out for inquiry. Here are just a few:

CAFE Standards. The car industry asked for delays and modifications in fuel efficiency standards. The administration came back with a drastic rollback that went far beyond what industry requested, to the dismay of at least some major car firms. How did that happen? Outside economists scoff at the analysis Department of Transportation officials ran roughshod over EPA staff, whose complaints were squelched by the White House. Who exactly was responsible for those decisions? And what role did the oil companies play behind the scenes? There are already indications that oil companies were somewhat involved …

April 9, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Cost-benefit analysis has long been the target of environmentalist ire. But one lesson of the Trump years has been that economic analysis can be a source of support for environmental policy — it is the anti-regulatory forces who have to fudge the numbers to justify their actions. Most energy and environmental economists are aghast at Trump's assaults on climate change regulations — many of them would instead favor stricter regulation over the status quo. Maybe it's time for at least a temporary ceasefire while we are allies in resisting Trump's rollbacks.

There is little doubt that the Reagan administration adopted cost-benefit analysis as a tool for reaching its own preferred deregulatory outcomes. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was put in charge of cost-benefit analysis with the expectation that it would be a death trap for regulations. OIRA seemed happy to oblige …

April 1, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

EPA pollution regulations are based on an assessment of the risks posed by pollutants. This can be a complex scientific judgment. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the agency's scientific advisory board, is pushing for major changes in the way that EPA approaches this analysis. The effect would be to make it much harder for EPA to prove that a risk exists.

Currently, risk assessment is based on a "weight of the evidence" approach that considers all of the peer-reviewed literature, rather than limiting itself to studies using specific methodologies. Tony Cox, the industry consultant who now heads CASAC after Scott Pruitt purged most academic scientists, has been pushing for a radical change. He wants to limit risk assessment to studies that use a specific set of methods to establish that a substance actually causes harm. In particular, he rejects studies …

March 29, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

The Washington Post has a list of false statements by Trump, which turns out to be searchable by topic. They've found, "In the first eight months of his presidency, President Trump made 1,137 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day." As of March 17, he was up to 9,179 false statements. There were 200 false statements about the environment – that's about one every four days, which compares favorably to the number of misrepresentations on some other topics. They're quite repetitive, but I've picked out some of the most frequent ones. By the way, if you're interested, the Post also explains why each of these statements is wrong. I shudder to think what people who follow him on Twitter are picking up in the way of misconceptions.

Air and Water

  • "Some of the best farmland in the …

March 25, 2019 by James Goodwin
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During her confirmation hearing, Neomi Rao – then the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and President Trump's pick to fill Justice Kavanaugh's vacant seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – attracted a lot of controversy. Much of it surrounded the outrageous student newspaper commentaries she wrote as an undergrad, in which she casually passed judgment on date rape victims and the scourge of creeping multiculturalism. Now that Rao has been sworn in to a lifetime appointment of passing judgment with the full effect of the law, it's worth looking at another dispute that arose during the hearing – namely, how she should approach her legal and ethical responsibility to recuse herself from cases involving rules she worked on as OIRA administrator.

In an exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) during the hearing, Rao pointedly refused to …

March 19, 2019 by James Goodwin
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Today, the Center for Progressive Reform and 46 other environmental, labor, and public health organizations sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler calling on him to withdraw the agency's pending "benefits-busting" rule. Wheeler was recently confirmed as the official agency head, and, as the letter notes, he can begin his tenure on the right track by abandoning this dangerous rulemaking. The proposal is a vestige of the disastrous Scott Pruitt era that would radically overhaul how the agency performs "cost-benefit analysis" on the environmental and health safeguards it is developing so as to make the results even more biased against public protections.

The broad range of public interest groups signing on to the letter confirms just how far-reaching a threat the benefits-busting rule poses, not just at EPA, but all agencies charged with protecting the public interest. Indeed, the changes it …

March 13, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Usually, you'd expect a regulated industry to applaud an effort to lighten its regulatory burdens. So you would think that the car industry would support Trump's effort to roll back fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles and take away California's authority to set its own vehicle standards. But that effort is being met by silence in some cases and vocal opposition in others. According to E&E News, "senior officials from EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . . . told automakers to support the rollback or risk angering President Trump by siding with California's more stringent tailpipe emissions rules. But since the call, not one automaker has issued a statement of support." Some, like Ford, remain openly opposed to the rollback, which attempts to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards and oust California from setting its own standards.

One reason for the industry's …

March 12, 2019 by Laurie Ristino
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The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has a weighty agenda – from policy reform to oversight of the Trump administration. Given all that the House Democrats have on their plate, urging them to restore policy rationality by making the support of science-based policy central to their strategy might seem like a prosaic ask, but it's critically important.  

Without science as the lodestar for government policymaking, anything goes, which is exactly the problem. As the Union of Concerned Scientists documented in a recent report, the Trump administration has been marginalizing science and isolating federal scientists for the past two years. Trump appointees have systematically undercut the science-based policies and regulations forged to protect human health and the environment. This has opened the door to irrational policymaking aimed at benefiting the industries and special interests to which these appointees are linked.

The bipartisan design of our …

March 11, 2019 by Joel Mintz
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This post is adapted from a recent law review article published in the University of Missouri—Kansas City Law Review.

In myriad ways – from speeches, favoritism toward polluting industries, and ill-advised regulatory rollbacks – the Trump administration has consistently exhibited unrestrained antagonism toward regulatory safeguards for health, safety, and the environment. One of the earliest manifestations of that antagonism – and arguably one of the most pernicious – was an executive order signed by the president only ten days after his term began.

Executive Order 13771, hereafter referred to as the "one-in, two-out" order, contained three directives to all federal departments and agencies. First, it provided that "unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency…publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed." Second, for fiscal year 2017, the president's order directed …

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