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May 4, 2021 by James Goodwin

The Environmental Forum: When the System Fosters Racial Injustice

Originally published by the Environmental Law Institute’s “The Environmental Forum” May-June 2021 issue. This is an excerpt.

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By the time the environmental justice movement began taking shape in the 1980s, communities of color had already been suffering from the disproportionate burdens of pollution for decades. Since then, evidence of racially discriminatory patterns in the distribution of environmental harms has only continued to mount.

Researchers from the universities of Michigan and Montana empirically documented in a pair of 2015 studies the phenomenon of “sacrifice zones,” finding that industrial facilities associated with high levels of pollution are disproportionately sited in low-income communities and communities of color.

A 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science found that while White people in the United States are disproportionately responsible for particulate matter pollution — which is linked to heart disease, permanent lung damage, and premature death — Black people and Latinos endure significantly greater exposure to this pollution.

But even as environmental justice has grown in prominence, early policy responses in its support have been lackluster, undermined by tepid commitment from political leaders, inadequate resources, and feeble accountability measures. Executive Order 12898, which was first issued in 1994, directs that “each …

April 27, 2021 by James Goodwin
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President Joe Biden's April 28 speech to a joint session of Congress — his first major address since his inauguration — offers him a chance to outline and defend his policy priorities. He should use this opportunity to articulate a positive vision of regulation as an institution within our democracy and to champion the crucial role it plays in promoting the public interest.

Biden will likely focus much of his speech on his ambitious infrastructure plan, from which he can easily pivot to regulation. After all, robust regulations are essential to the success of the U.S. economy, no different from traditional "gray" infrastructure like roads, bridges, pipelines, and power lines.

Strong regulatory protections provide a foundation of trust, which is critical for keeping our economy humming. Imagine, for example, if the Biden administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long overdue emergency temporary standard to protect …

April 26, 2021 by James Goodwin
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Making Congress functional again is having a moment. The debates over ending the filibuster and legislation to prevent hyper-partisan congressional districts have received the most attention in this space so far. But lawmakers did quietly take an important step forward on mending congressional dysfunction when they reinstated the practice of earmarking the federal budget, reversing a decade-old ban.

Lawmakers should build on this fix to the budget process by cracking down on “poison pill” appropriations riders, a gimmick that proliferated in the vacuum left by the earmark ban.

These riders are the inverse of earmarks, which direct federal agencies to spend a certain portion of funds on a specific activity (like building a bridge or community center, for example). Poison pill riders, on the other hand, bar agencies from using funds for certain activities. They don’t repeal agencies …

March 24, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In a little-noticed move on Day One, President Joe Biden issued a memo designed to institute a more progressive process for developing new regulations. Such an effort is essential, given that timely, effective regulations will play a key role in achieving Biden-Harris administration's policy agenda. To succeed, however, it must also tackle the conservative philosophy that guides our government's rulemaking process.

Biden's memo focuses on the mechanics of the rulemaking process, and especially two institutions that heavily influence regulatory decisions: centralized, White House review of proposed rules and economics-focused assessments of them. President Reagan and his successors have issued a string of executive orders to govern these institutions. Biden's memo addresses flaws in the current iteration, Executive Order 12866 (along with some other, related orders). Fixing these flaws is necessary to create a more progressive regulatory system that better protects people and the planet.

A flawed foundation …

March 23, 2021 by James Goodwin, Sidney Shapiro
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This op-ed originally ran in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

To paraphrase French economist Thomas Piketty, the task of evaluating new regulations is too important to leave to just economists. Yet, since the 1980s, White House-supervised regulatory impact analysis has privileged economic efficiency as the primary and often only legitimate objective of federal regulation. The regulatory reform initiative launched by President Joseph R. Biden on his first day in office creates an opportunity to reorient regulatory analysis in ways that both reformers and the public support.

Legal and policy experts object to hyper-technical regulatory analysis, and new public opinion polling indicates that voters agree.

Far from a monolithic concept, cost-benefit analysis encompasses a wide range of approaches and techniques, all with their own theoretical underpinnings and ethical commitments. Indeed, the current version of cost-benefit analysis is grounded in the conservative discipline of welfare economics and seeks …

Jan. 20, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The pro-Trump insurrection that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6 was the most serious threat to the rule of law in our country in well over a century. Unless we fully grapple with the conditions and causes that gave rise to it, this threat will linger, waiting for the next spark to reignite it.

The Capitol insurrection is the predictable culmination of decades of self-serving attacks on "government." Especially since the Reagan administration, conservative lawmakers have increasingly amassed political fortunes by stoking the anger and resentment of millions of Americans who have been left behind by an ever more lopsided economy.

Their formula rests on a self-fulfilling prophesy: Attack government effectiveness to justify deep cuts to government functions, which in turn fuels new attacks on government and new calls for even deeper cuts.

Ordinarily, our free press would be responsible for halting …

Jan. 7, 2021 by Darya Minovi, James Goodwin
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UPDATE: On January 27, a federal district court in Montana found that the Trump EPA unlawfully made the censored science rule immediately effective. The court then delayed its effective date until February 5. This doesn't overturn the rule, but it does give the Biden-Harris administration more flexibility as it works to fully repeal this damaging policy.

In a last-ditch effort to further weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to protect public health, this week, the Trump administration published its final “censored science” rule. As stated in the Center for Progressive Reform’s comments on the draft rulemaking, this proposal unjustifiably limits the research that can be used in regulatory decision-making, giving more weight to studies where the underlying data is publicly available. These restrictions will apply to dose-response studies — which measure how much an increase in pollution exposure increases public health harms — and which …

Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin
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Thanks to the recent presidential election results, I’m able to do something I haven’t done in a long time: look at a new year with something resembling hope and optimism. As noted in my December 21 posts, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on our system of regulatory safeguards in 2020, as it did in previous years. The incoming Biden-Harris administration brings a strong mandate to undo the damage — and to go further by building a more just and people-centered government that can meet the pressing challenges America faces.

CPR recently launched Policy for a Just America with this opportunity in mind. This initiative aims to rebuild and reimagine government and offers detailed recommendations aimed at promoting a more robust and responsive regulatory system.

Will we seize the moment? Here are the first five of 10 storylines I’ll be following this year. Each could significantly …

Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In my previous post, I began my review of 10 key regulatory policy stories to watch out for as 2021 gets underway. In this piece, I wrap up that list and offer some closing thoughts.

  1. How will Congress oversee the Biden-Harris administration's regulatory actions? When Republicans regained control of the U.S. House in 2010, they wasted little time challenging the Obama administration's regulatory policies, regularly holding bombastic hearings for show and rolling out new bills meant to throttle the regulatory system. If Republicans win either or both Georgia runoffs for U.S. Senate tomorrow, they will retain control of the chamber and will likely borrow a page from this playbook. Whether the Biden-Harris administration vigorously defends its regulatory agenda or cowers like the Obama administration will determine how much progress it makes on its policy priorities. On the flipside, House Democrats have a crucial …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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In my last post, I began counting down the top ten most significant developments affecting regulatory policy and public protections from the past year. This post completes the task. The good news is some of these developments offer some hope on realizing the goals of CPR’s Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. Others, however, suggest that the task of realizing those goals will be an arduous one.

  1. Environmental justice takes its rightful place as a top-tier issue. At the beginning of the year, environmental justice rose to unprecedented prominence thanks to advocacy efforts behind the Green New Deal and the introduction of major environmental justice legislation by Reps. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.). The issue took on greater urgency in May, after the alleged murder of George Floyd …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
May 4, 2021

The Environmental Forum: When the System Fosters Racial Injustice

April 27, 2021

Memo to Biden: Regulation Is Infrastructure

April 26, 2021

The Hill Op-ed: Now That Earmarks Are Back, It's Time to Ban 'Poison Pill' Riders

March 24, 2021

Biden's Overhaul Effort Should Include the 'Basic Principles' of Regulation, Too

March 23, 2021

To Democratize Regulation, Reform Regulatory Analysis

Jan. 20, 2021

The Era of 'Small Government' Must End: Reflections on the Capitol Insurrection

Jan. 7, 2021

Incoming Biden Administration Should Repeal Harmful EPA Censored Science Rule