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April 29, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Biden and the Environment: The First 100 Days

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

April 30 marks President Biden's first 100 days in office. He's appointed a great climate team and is negotiating an infrastructure bill that focuses on climate change. With luck, those actions will produce major environmental gains down the road. There are also some solid gains in the form of actions that have already come to fruition. Here's where things stand.

Executive orders. Former President Trump seemed to delight in issuing anti-environmental executive orders. All of those are gone now, replaced with Biden's environment-friendly substitute. In one important move, Biden restored former President Obama's estimate of the social cost of carbon, which Trump had slashed.

Foreign affairs. Here the big news is that Biden has taken the United States back into the Paris agreement and has submitted a commitment cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels in the next ten years. He has also canceled Trump's approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Legislation. Biden's COVID stimulus plan mostly focused on getting money into a wide swath of the economy. It did provide $30 billion to help hard-hit mass transit systems get through the pandemic. It also made money …

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 6, 2021 by Sarah Krakoff
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This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

A citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, Deborah Haaland is the first Native American woman to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Haaland will oversee the federal agencies that manage nearly 480 million acres of federal public lands, while the head of the U.S. Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages the remaining 190 million acres.

Haaland and her colleague, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have a tall double-order ahead. In his flurry of first-day executive orders, President Joe Biden announced the entwined goals of addressing racial, economic, and other forms of injustice, as well as tackling the country's most serious environmental challenges. Reflecting these goals, during his confirmation hearing, Vilsack pledged to address "discrimination in all its forms across USDA agencies," and "to root …

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 …

March 15, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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This op-ed was originally published in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

A week after taking office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order “on tackling the climate crisis” that includes important measures to address the crisis comprehensively and equitably. Specifically, the order directs the federal government to take a “whole of government” approach to the climate crisis that pursues economic security, ensures environmental justice, and empowers workers.

The beginning of such a plan is promising, particularly after four years under an administration that wiped the word “climate” from government websites, rolled back the Obama administration’s steps to address the crisis, and made fossil fuel production a centerpiece of its agenda.

But it’s just that — a promising beginning. And it’s already under assault. The American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s largest oil and gas lobbying group, immediately attacked the order, and particularly its directive to pause …

March 8, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The COVID pandemic has provided a vivid picture of what happens when ill-prepared governments are suddenly hit with huge responsibilities. Underfunded state and local public health agencies were overwhelmed, while governors and local officials found themselves struggling to obtain and distribute vital supplies, from respirators to vaccines. Efforts to accelerate the transition away from carbon, such as a green stimulus, may run into similar problems if we neglect the agencies that will have to implement policies.

People tend to think of the energy transition in terms of wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, and charging stations for electric vehicles. That can presumably be accomplished through mandates to utilities or financial incentives. The trouble is that all of these changes have to function in connection with a power system that wasn’t built to accommodate them. That requires …

March 3, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro
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Amid the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of politics these days, one fact stands out — a large majority of Americans want more regulatory protection in a wide variety of areas, according to a recent poll of likely voters.

The results are consistent with previous polls that indicate that Americans understand the importance of government regulation in protecting them from financial and health risks beyond their control. They also indicate majority support for efforts by the Biden administration to renew government regulation — as well as a stark repudiation of former President Trump’s extreme anti-regulatory agenda.

The poll, conducted in January by Data for Progress and the Center for Progressive Reform, found that a majority of likely voters favor more regulation of drinking water pollution (74 percent); consumer product safety (71percent); privacy data (70 percent); air pollution (68 percent …

March 2, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

"The social cost of carbon" isn't exactly a household phrase. It's an estimate of the harm caused by emitting a ton of carbon dioxide over the many decades it remains in the atmosphere. That's an important factor in calculating the costs and benefits of climate regulations. For an arcane concept, it has certainly caused a lot of controversy. The Obama administration came up with a set of estimates, which Trump then slashed by 90 percent.

In an early executive order, Biden created a task force to revisit the issue. Last week, the task force issued its first report. It's an impressive effort given that Biden is barely a month into his presidency. The document provides a clear overview of the ways in which climate science and climate economics have advanced since the Obama estimates and makes …

Feb. 25, 2021 by Allison Stevens
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Seven years ago, public officials in cash-strapped Flint, Michigan, cut city costs by tapping the Flint River as a source of public drinking water.

So began the most egregious example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history, according to Paul Mohai, a founder of the movement for environmental justice and a professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

When they made the switch, city officials didn’t properly treat the new water, which allowed lead from corroded pipes, bacteria, and other contaminants to leach into the public drinking water supply. Flint residents, who are disproportionately low-income and Black, immediately raised alarms about the fetid, brown water flowing out of their faucets and cited health problems, such as hair loss and rashes.

But the city didn’t officially acknowledge the problem or begin to take decisive action until a year and a half …

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