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Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on August 27, 2014

  • “Fine for killing birds” is susceptible of two meanings, you know [Coyote on energy production]
  • Lacey Act criminal provisions, of Gibson Guitar raid fame, owe much to influence of domestic forest products companies, and that’s just one of the links between crony capitalism and overcriminalization [Paul Larkin, Heritage]
  • Why California shut down its local redevelopment agencies, all 400+ of them [Shirley Svorny, Regulation]
  • “EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Proposal: Coming Soon to a Back Yard Near You?” [Scott McFadin, WLF]
  • Taxpayers shell out handsomely to be sued under Endangered Species Act [Higgins]
  • “How Land Prices Obviate the Need for Euclidean Zoning” [Emily Washington]
  • Casting a skeptical eye on Vandana Shiva’s anti-GMO crusade [The New Yorker]

The inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a report defending the agency’s EPA evenhandedness in handling FOIA requests from friends and foes of its policies [The Hill]. We covered the original charges here and here.

Now this is lovely: the Environmental Protection Agency intends to assert for the first time a power to garnish your wages without a court order to cover fines or other sums it may assess. The new “administrative wage garnishment” power is fueled by a 1996 federal law, the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA), which authorizes more direct means for the seizure of “fines, penalties or fees assessed by federal agencies” and other moneys owed them. The EPA is taking comments through August 1. [Robert Gordon, Daily Signal]

More, a semi-defense of the agency from Brent Fewell: since Congress has pushed these new collection methods on many agencies besides the EPA, the most suitable course for critics would be to press lawmakers to change the debt collection law, the EPA’s underlying statutes, or both.

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In a complex decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down in part and upheld in part the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate large emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) [McClatchy/Federalist Society]. A key portion of the holding, writes Jonathan Adler at Volokh, is the finding that the EPA

is not permitted to rewrite the applicable statutory emission thresholds. The latter conclusion, in particular, is an important reaffirmation that agencies are not allowed to rewrite the statutes that they administer. But today’s decision was not a total loss for the EPA, however, as the Court also concluded that it was reasonable for the EPA to interpret the Act to allow for the regulation of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from sources already subject to regulation under the PSD and Title V [large stationary source] program. What this means is that large stationary sources (think big power plants and industrial boilers) that are already regulated as major stationary sources under these programs will have to control GHG emissions when they control other emissions. But sources that only emit large amounts of GHGs will not become subject to EPA’s regulatory authority under these provisions.

From my colleague Andrew Grossman at Cato:

At issue was one of the Obama Administration’s earliest efforts to skirt Congress and achieve its major policy goals unilaterally through aggressive executive action….

Autocrat tea bag
The Court, in a lead opinion by Justice Scalia, called it “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous.” EPA, it held, must abide by the statute: “An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.” And if such tailoring is required to avoid a plainly “absurd result” at odds with congressional intentions, then obviously there is obviously something wrong with the agency’s interpretation of the statute. To hold otherwise, the Court recognized, “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers” by allowing the executive to revise Congress’s handiwork. …

The Court’s decision may be a prelude of more to come. Since the Obama Administration issued its first round of greenhouse gas regulations, it has become even more aggressive in wielding executive power so as to circumvent the need to work with Congress on legislation. That includes recent actions on such issues as immigration, welfare reform, and drug enforcement.

Four liberal justices dissented, while Justices Alito and Thomas argued that the Scalia-led plurality were too accommodating of the EPA’s assertion of power.

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on May 21, 2014

  • Julie Gunlock, from her new book, on killer garden hoses [Free-Range Kids]
  • “EPA and the Army Corps’ ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Proposal: Will it Initiate Regulatory Overflow?” [Samuel Boxerman with Lisa Jones, WLF]
  • Federal rules governing land ownership on Indian reservations ensure waste and neglect [Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • “Zoning’s Racist Roots Still Bear Fruit” [A. Barton Hinkle]
  • Victor Fleischer: Pigouvian taxes on externalities beloved of economists, not so great as actionable policy [TaxProf]
  • So economically and so environmentally destructive, it’s got to be federal ethanol policy [Hinkle]
  • “Regulation Through Sham Litigation: The Sue and Settle Phenomenon” [Andrew Grossman for Heritage on a consent-decree pattern found in environmental regulation and far beyond; Josiah Neeley, The Federalist]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2014

  • Environmental advocates and their fans in the press come off badly in Chevron/Ecuador litigation scandal [Coyote, earlier]
  • Drought disaster unfolds in California’s Central Valley, where project water is allocated by fiat, not bid for in market [Allysia Finley, WSJ; San Jose Mercury-News]
  • Other large democracies resist the idea of packing environmental terms into trade treaties, and maybe they’re right [Simon Lester, Cato]
  • “A Tough Day in Court for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations” [Andrew Grossman]
  • R.I.P. leading environmental law professor Joseph Sax [NYT, I discussed his work in Schools for Misrule]
  • Lawyers have hijacked Endangered Species Act [Congressional Working Group report via Washington Examiner editorial]
  • When science begins bringing extinct animals back to life, watch for unintended legal consequences [Tyler Cowen]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on January 31, 2014

  • Behind costly EPA crackdown on wood-burning stoves, a whiff of sweetheart lawsuits? [Larry Bell]
  • Reminder: California’s Prop 65 doesn’t actually improve public health, makes lawyers rich, and harasses business [Michael Marlow, WSJ]
  • “What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters” [Nathanael Johnson, Grist]
  • Eminent domain threatens store owner in Fire Island’s Saltaire [NYP]
  • In case you haven’t seen this one: chemical content of all-natural foods [James Kennedy Monash]
  • “The court ordered that the county pay the turtles’ attorneys fees.” [Dan Lewis, Now I Know]
  • “On the government’s books, the switch [from steel to aluminum in Ford's new F-150 pickup] is a winner because MPG goes up.” [William Baldwin, Forbes]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on December 4, 2013

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2013

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on October 11, 2013

Some serve essentially as security guards for federal installations and lack much of an outside presence, but others — quite a few others, in fact — are capable of engaging in antics like SWAT-style environmental raids on rural settlements.

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on August 23, 2013

  • California officials profess surprise: fracking’s been going on for decades in their state [Coyote]
  • Taxpayers fund Long Island Soundkeeper enviro group, affiliated with RFK Jr.’s Waterkeeper network, and a Connecticut state lawmaker does rather nicely out of that [Raising Hale]
  • Backgrounder on Louisiana coastal erosion suit [New Orleans Times-Picayune] “Lawsuit Blaming Oil Companies For Wetland Loss Might As Well Blame The Plaintiffs” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • US ties for worst of 25 countries when it comes to delay in mining permits [Sharon Koss, NTU] “Number One in DataMining” [@sonodoc99]
  • “BP Is Rapidly Becoming One Giant Law Firm” [Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]
  • “Mann v. Steyn — Mann wins round one” [Adler]
  • An insider’s view of EPA and how it uses power [Brent Fewell]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2013

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on June 13, 2013

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EPA-mandated diesel-engine governor shuts down ambulance carrying patient in cardiac arrest to emergency room. [WTTG; Washington, D.C.] The D.C. fire union says emissions-control engine governors, the result of an EPA mandate, have shut down rescue vehicles during missions at least three times since August. Following strenuous protests from rescue squads around the country, EPA last May waived the application of the rules for fire trucks and ambulances, but D.C. is apparently stuck with vehicles acquired before the waiver.

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on May 8, 2013

  • Can EPA use subregulatory guidance to dodge judicial review of formal notice-and-comment rulemaking? Appeals court says no [Allison Wood, WLF]
  • “Outhouse blues: Salisbury Twp. tells 77-year-old to install $20,000 septic system he doesn’t want” [Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Online]
  • Denying attorney fee in oil spill case, Texas judge questions authenticity of client signature [ABA Journal, Chamber-backed Southeast Texas Record]
  • Why “climate justice” campaigns fail both the environment and the poor [Chris Foreman, The Breakthrough]
  • Does the Yale Alumni Magazine often side with plaintiffs who sue to muzzle critics? [Neela Banerjee on Michael Mann lawsuit against National Review, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mark Steyn, etc.]
  • Anti-science, anti-humanity: Milan animal rights action trashes years of psychiatric research [Nature]
  • Parody Tom-Friedman-bot must be at it again: “best place to start” response to Boston attack “is with a carbon tax” [Tim Blair] Too darn hot: “Dems warn climate change could drive women to ‘transactional sex'” [The Hill]
  • Some California lawmakers seek to curb shakedown lawsuits under notorious Prop 65 chemical-labeling law [Sacramento Bee; Gov. Brown proposes reform]

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on March 26, 2013

  • Doughnut oil and the environment: NYT misses a story of unintended consequences [Ira Stoll, SmarterTimes]
  • N.C.: “Guy Who Runs Wilderness Camp Told to Install Sprinklers, Use County Approved Lumber” [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • “With Proposed Policy Change, EPA Fully Embraces Role of ‘Environmental Justice’ Advocate” [Cory Andrews, WLF]
  • “While the taxes… are irritating, what has really killed my interest in expanding in California is the regulatory burden.” [Coyote on SLOLeaks blog; another California Coastal Commission horror story]
  • Natural crop breeding = safe, biotech-assisted breeding = unsafe? Tale of the toxic potato teaches otherwise [Maggie Koerth-Baker, BoingBoing] (broken link fixed now)
  • Peak Oil? Welcome instead to Trough Oil, as titanic new fossil fuel supplies begin coming online [Andrew Sullivan]
  • Deregulation of accessory dwellings is a reform both free-marketeers and New Urbanists in search of density can get behind [David Alpert, Greater Greater Washington]

Justice Scalia and the Ninth Circuit, cats and dogs lying down together? The conservative justice was the only dissenter the other day in a 7-1 Supreme Court decision overturning the Ninth Circuit in the consolidated cases of Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. In doing so, the Court upheld (as the Ninth Circuit had not) the entitlement of the Environmental Protection Agency, and by implication other federal agencies, to deference in interpreting the meaning of its own regulations — so-called Auer deference, as distinguished from Chevron deference in the interpretation of Congressionally enacted statutes. Roger Pilon at Cato sorts it out and concludes that there is nothing paradoxical about the line-up: Scalia is distinctively vigilant against the dangers of excessive delegation of legislative power to executive-branch regulators, and deference tends to intensify the effects of such delegation. (Update: omitted link included now)