May 8, 2014 by Anne Havemann

Supreme Court's Revival of the Transport Rule Means a Cleaner Chesapeake Bay

Air pollution is a complex problem. For one, it does not adhere to state boundaries; a smokestack in one state can contribute to pollution problems in another, even a downwind state hundreds of miles away. What’s more, air pollution’s impacts are not confined to just the air. What goes up must come down, and air pollutants are eventually deposited on the ground where they are washed into rivers, lakes, and streams. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tried for decades to address the thorny problem of interstate air pollution. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court revived the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the agency’s most recent and comprehensive attempt to tackle the issue. The decision in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P. will mean that large sources of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions in certain states will be subject to more stringent air pollution requirements moving forward. 

Reversing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Court deferred to the EPA’s interpretation of the portion of the Clean Air Act that requires emission controls in states to ensure that no source “contributes significantly” to violations of …

May 8, 2014 by Matt Shudtz

The National Academies’ National Research Council released its long-awaited report on IRIS this week, and the results are good for EPA.  The report praises the IRIS program and its leadership, including Drs. Olden and Cogliano, for making great strides to improve how IRIS assessments are developed.

To get a real appreciation for how positive this report is, it’s important to put it in context.  In 2011, a different NAS/NRC committee led by the same chairperson went out of its way to criticize the IRIS program for creating what the committee viewed as overly ponderous, sometimes confusing documents.  That committee, which was organized to peer review a draft assessment of formaldehyde, went beyond its charge to complain about an IRIS assessment development process that it cast as not being fit for its weighty purpose (developing the scientific evidence upon which agencies regulate drinking water, Superfund cleanup …

May 6, 2014 by Frank Ackerman

Frank Ackerman is the coauthor, with Joseph Daniel, of (Mis)understanding Climate Policy: The role of economic modeling, prepared for Friends of the Earth (England, Wales & Northern Ireland) and WWF-UK.

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK government sets “legally binding” carbon budgets, which cap the country’s total emissions for five-year periods.

The size of the fourth carbon budget, covering 2023-2027, is topic of debate. The budget was set by Government back in 2011 but Chancellor George Obsorne secured a commitment to review it in 2014 and discussions are currently taking place in government regarding its new level. One important aspect of that debate is estimating the economic cost of reducing carbon emissions in the middle of the next decade.

The approach taken by the UK government to estimate the effects of the carbon budgets on economic growth uses the HMRC CGE (“computable general …

May 1, 2014 by William Andreen

On April 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a proposed rulemaking to clarify the jurisdictional reach of the protections afforded by the Clean Water Act of 1972.  The Clean Water Act is the foundation of our nation’s effort to restore and maintain the biological, chemical, and physical integrity of our water resources.  While the jurisdictional reach of the Act was well defined and well understood for nearly forty years, two Supreme Court cases in the early 2000s (SWANCC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States) created confusion and added complexity to the determination of which streams and which wetlands were subject to Clean Water Act protection.  The proposed rulemaking responds to the need, articulated by the regulated community and others, to provide clarity amidst the uncertainty generated by the cases.  It …

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