- Plaintiffs in Michigan v. EPA, now before U.S. Supreme Court, argue that cost-no-object regulation oversteps EPA’s authority [The Economist, Ilya Shapiro on Cato’s amicus brief]
- Apex predator? Class action firm and perennial Overlawyered favorite Hagens Berman sues Sea World demanding consumer refunds over animal handling [Orlando Sentinel, San Antonio Business Journal]
- Privately designed and operated cities can provide answers to tough growth questions [Alex Tabarrok and Shruti Rajagopolan]
- Following pile-on of publicity and lawsuits over formaldehyde levels in flooring, Lumber Liquidators distributes free test kits to consumers, gets sued over that too [Bloomberg, related]
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission won’t charge men who posted Facebook video of their hang-out with an apparently injured Great Horned Owl, but feds might [Lowering the Bar]
- Urban markets often blocked from providing supply of affordable housing [Adam Hengels, Market Urbanism] “Minimum parking requirements in the planning profession are closely analogous to bloodletting in the medical profession.” [Donald Shoup via Tabarrok]
- In Louisiana, legacy lawsuits over past oil and gas drilling roil Plaquemines Parish [WWL]
- Biggest gaps between views of scientists and those of general public come on topics of animal research, GMO foods [Pew/AAAS]
- New study challenges prevailing assumptions: controlling for such factors as poverty and race, “no differences [found] in asthma risk between children living in urban areas and their suburban and rural counterparts” [Science Daily; Knappenberger and Michaels, Cato]
- Interview with NYU’s urbanist Alain Bertaud, formerly of the World Bank [Market Urbanism]
- Little free libraries on the wrong side of zoning law [Conor Friedersdorf, Sarah Skwire/Freeman, L.A. Times]
- “Who knew following the trail of ‘clean energy’ money could make you feel so dirty?” [Oregonian editorial on scandal that led to resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, more, Watchdog] Actually, the correct answer is “plenty of us”: green-barrel projects rife with cronyism in other states too [Mark Newgent, Red Maryland; Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun]
- “EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People” [Larry Bell, Forbes]
- “The digital poker magnate who financed an epic pollution lawsuit against Chevron has disavowed the case and accused the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer of misleading him about the underlying facts.” [Paul Barrett, Roger Parloff]
“Little free libraries,” book-swap kiosks on a “take one, leave one” model, can no longer operate in Shreveport, Louisiana because the city deems them commercial activity in a residential zone. [Shreveport Times]
At Reason, Baylen Linnekin has a year-end survey asking “a handful of food law and policy cognoscenti” (thanks!) what they would pick as the story of the year in that area, and also the story to watch next year. (Others surveyed include Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Ron Bailey, and Jeff Stier.) As a significant story in the past year, I nominated the flare-up of social media resistance to changes to the federal school lunch program (“#ThanksMichelleObama“), noting that while purveyors of “food policy” could barely contain their disdain at the insolence of the students spreading the tag, the protest did make an impression in Washington: “of all the ways to irritate the political class, making fun of them is among their least favorite.”
So far as a sleeper issue to look for in 2015, my nomination was:
Have you heard of “Health in All Policies”? It’s a buzz-phrase for inserting public health dogma into everything from land use to taxation. Imagine if sticking up for your taste in milkshakes and margaritas meant you had to attend zoning meetings. It might come to that.
At “The Pulse”, a series on health based at Philadelphia’s public radio station WHYY, reporter Taunya English describes “Health in All Policies” at more length and quotes me providing a voice of skepticism about the idea.
Can New York City really support an army of an estimated 8,300 “expediters” who run paperwork around to city offices, wait in line, haggle with officials, and generally navigate the bureaucracy on behalf of those who need permits, licenses and other municipal decisions? It’s a testimony to the dysfunction of the city’s governance [Kanner, Renn/Urbanophile]
Is a cemetery an objectionable land use, and does it matter if the neighbors’ objections are religious? [Gideon Kanner]
- “An Innovative Way to Title Property in Poor Countries” [Ian Vasquez on Peter Schaefer and Clay Schaefer Cato study]
- Berman v. Parker, “1954 U.S. Supreme Court case that approved large-scale modern urban renewal”, facilitated a bulldozer redevelopment of Washington, D.C.’s SW now viewed as “crushing failure” [Gideon Kanner]
- Time for a radical step: strip local government of its project-blocking powers [Edward Glaeser, Cato]
- When reporting on European anti-fracking movements, try not to think of a Bear [Jonathan Adler]
- “The EPA wants to redefine ‘the waters of the United States’ to mean virtually any wet spot in the country.” [M. Reed Hopper and Todd Gaziano, WSJ] Overcriminalization, EPA, and wetlands: the Jack Barron case [Right on Crime video]
- Exhaustion of state remedies on takings: “Supreme Court Should Remove Kafka-esque Burden to Vindicating Property Rights” [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
- “Proposition 65 can spell bankruptcy for many California small business owners” [Mark Snyder, Sacramento Bee]
The panel is packed with big names and many of them offer suggestions with a law or regulation angle, including Philip K. Howard (“Radically Simplify Law”), Derek Khanna (rethink patent and copyright law; related, Ramesh Ponnuru), Morris Kleiner (reform occupational licensure; related, Steven Teles), Arnold Kling (“Sidestep the FCC and the FDA”), Robert Litan (admit more high-skill immigrants and reform employment of teachers; similarly on immigration, Alex Nowrasteh), Adam Thierer (emphasize “permissionless innovation”), and Peter Van Doren (relax zoning so to ease movement of workers to high-wage cities).
Picking up on some provocative observations by Prof. Kenneth Stahl at Concurring Opinions, I’ve got a new post at Cato arguing that “libertarian analysis better explains what actually goes on in local government than does the standard progressive faith in the competence of government to correct supposed market failure.” Ilya Somin goes on to tackle the same question at Volokh Conspiracy. In a second post, Prof. Stahl explains why he thinks nuisance law, often cited by libertarians as a superior way of handling conflicts between adjoining land uses, doesn’t live up to such hopes in practice. Update: A third post by Stahl.
Or so a California Court of Appeals “proudly announced …because it took only 20 years from a developer’s application to build a housing tract under existing zoning, to the court’s EIR [environmental impact review] approval.” [Gideon Kanner, citing Clover Valley Foundation v. City of Rocklin, 197 Cal. App.4th 200 (2011), as well as a September 2014 land use roundtable in California Lawyer]