February 18, 2008
Foreign Affairs - The Candidates in Their Own Words --
During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change. I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe.
I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewing is Barack Obama. I chose Obama first in part because I am torn between Clinton and Obama. Although I respect John McCain's leadership on climate change, I could not vote for a Republican after the 1994 - 2006 Republican congressional legacy and the debacle of Bush's presidency for virtually every freedom and human need. I also disagree with McCain's position on Iraq.
In his own words, Barack Obama primarily addresses climate change as a matter of global policy. He ties the US response to global warming to his overall foreign policy in this way:
Strengthened institutions and invigorated alliances and partnerships are especially crucial if we are to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world, including much of the eastern seaboard. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.
As the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, America has the responsibility to lead. While many of our industrial partners are working hard to reduce their emissions, we are increasing ours at a steady clip -- by more than ten percent per decade. As president, I intend to enact a cap-and-trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil -- by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels.
Getting our own house in order is only a first step. China will soon replace America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. I will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia. This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.
February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 08, 2008
D.C. Circuit vacates the delisting and mercury rules
The D.C. Circuit just vacated the Delisting and Clean Air Mercury Rules. New Jersey v. EPA decision
I have not read the whole decision. But one of the implication I am most interested in is the court's vacating the delisting rule. It seems to me that this decision opens the door for carbon dioxide from power plants to be regulated under section 112 of the Clean Air Act. Section 112, with its Maximum Achievable Control Technology T-based standard, might be an attractive way to use the existing Clean Air Act provisions to regulate carbon dioxide.
February 06, 2008
Candidates Compete for Green Title
After the Bush administration legacy, it is refreshing to see both Democratic and some Republican candidates competing for the title of Mr. or Ms. Green. See the comparison in Grist.
February 6, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
October 26, 2007
British Petroleum agrees to pay $70 million USD for environmental crimes
Acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler announced yesterday that the energy company British Petroleum (BP) has agreed to pay approximately 70 million dollars in fines and restitution for environmental crimes. This includes a criminal fine of $50 million for Clean Air Act violations resulting from an explosion at BP's Texas City refinery in 2005.
"This is the largest fine ever assessed to a single entity under the Clean Air Act. And this is the first criminal prosecution under a section of the Act specifically created to prevent accidental releases that result in death of serious injury," said Keisler.
BP has also agreed to pay a $12 million criminal fine, $4 million in community service payments, and $4 million in criminal restitution for Clean Water Act violations associated with pipeline leaks of crude oil in Alaska. Additionally, BP agreed to three years of probation for the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act violations.
"BP committed serious environmental crimes in our two largest states, with terrible consequences for people and the environment" said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's agreement sends a message that these types of crimes will be prosecuted."
The fines are part of BP's plea agreement to pay more than $373 million for environmental crimes, fraud and market manipulation. BP and several of its employees were charged by an indictment issued by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois with conspiracy to manipulate the price of propane in 2004, wire fraud, and several violations of the Commodity Exchange Act. BP will pay $303 million in restitution and criminal and civil fines for these crimes under the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.
Read the Department of Justice's press release.
October 18, 2007
Ruth Norton Smith (Nov 27, 1921 - Oct 14, 2007)
Ruth Norton Smith died peacefully in Boulder, Colorado on Sunday, October 14, 2007 after enjoying her full measure of life.
Ruth was born in Oklahoma on November 27, 1921 in a tent in Oklahoma. She was raised during the Depression years, moving frequently as her family farmed and followed the tunneling, mining, and other work available to her father. Ultimately, her family settled in southern California. There Ruth met the love of her life, Herbert Frank Smith, a carpenter and union organizer, whom she married on June 4, 1941.
In WW II, while her husband served in the Navy in the South Pacific, Ruth became a Rosie the Riveter, building bombers, and then joined the Women’s Army Corps, serving as a nurse. After the war, they settled in the Los Angeles area, where she became a real estate broker and the mom of two children, Greg in 1948 and Susan in 1953.
In 1955, her family moved to Colorado where she worked side by side with her husband to build two of the largest home-building companies in Colorado, Happy Homes and Fireside Homes, and a prominent real estate firm. When she left real estate and home-building in the late 1960s, Ruth became a political and market researcher for Research Services, Inc. and later became a researcher for the U.S. Census Bureau, from which she retired in 1989.
Ruth was a life-long Democratic political activist with a passion for peace, civil rights, and all aspects of social justice. She served in every capacity: running political campaigns, serving as a precinct committee woman, county, congressional district, and state delegate, pollwatcher, and election judge. She worked with Metro Denver Fair Housing center as a realtor, helping the first African-American families in Jefferson County to find housing. She volunteered with youth mentoring programs in Four Points and with Metro Denver Urban Coalition, Another Mother for Peace, Meals on Wheels, and countless other organizations.
Ruth was too busy with her family, volunteer work and career for many hobbies. She thrived on the stimulating conversations born by inviting friends and guests from all over the world and from every walk of life to dinner. She also found great pleasure in reading, traveling and attending theatre and opera performances.
Ruth was a warm, intelligent, extroverted vibrant woman who loved and was loved by virtually everyone she met. Her loss will be sorely missed by the many friends and family she has left behind, including her sister Lorene, her brother Fred, her son Greg, her daughter Susan, and her grandchildren Clint Smith, Brent Smith, Nathanial Smith-Tripp and Sarah Smith-Tripp. Her family and friends will gather at Mt. Vernon Country Club on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:30 am for a celebration of her life. The family requests that no flowers be sent and suggests donations to Meals on Wheel or a charity of your choice.
October 18, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
October 16, 2007
Thank you to Read/Write Web
Read/Write Web has listed Environmental Law Prof Blog prominently in its list of the 35 best environmental blogs. [35 best environmental blogs] Thanks!
October 16, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 06, 2007
Vote for Children's Safe Drinking Water
Project ID: 01250
Date Posted: 7/02
For Two Cents We Can Change the World. Four thousand children die needlessly every day from drinking contaminated water. It's a tragedy that hundreds of millions of people obtain their drinking water from polluted sources such as muddy rivers, ponds, and streams. This public health crisis can be addressed today through an innovative and low-cost technology that effectively purifies and cleans water while removing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Right now millions of people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas are being reached by a not-for-profit project, but millions more are in need. Help us reach a goal of providing 2 billion liters of safe drinking water. For only two pennies a day a child can have safe drinking water. We'd love to hear your thoughts. In fact, Give Us Your Two Cents Worth. Thank you.
My mission is to prevent the sickness and death that occur in the developing world from drinking unsafe water. I'm lucky to spend much of my life building partnerships to provide a low-cost technology to purify water. I never get tired of seeing filthy and highly contaminated water miraculously turn into clear and safe water. And, what's most satisfying is to provide children with their first drink of truly clean and purified water. Now we've developed a way for everyone to get involved. We can make, transport, and deliver the technology on a sustainable basis for only pennies per person. In fact, for just two cents we can provide purified drinking water for a person for a day. Two Cents to Change a Life. Please consider joining our project: "Give Your Two Cents Worth.
1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean water. As a result, 5,000 children die needlessly every day. In poor, rural communities, the only source of water is often miles away and the grueling task of collecting it often falls to young girls.
In the mountain village of La Horca, Nicaragua, Rosibel Gonzalez, 12, traveled 7.5 miles each day to fetch water for her parents and five siblings. Waking up before dawn, she walked to the creek before school and carried back a bucket of water on her head. She repeated the task after school and again before bed. But because the water she fetched came from the same source used by village livestock, it was dangerous to drink. When Rosibel's little brother, Wilber, was only eight months old, he and other villagers contracted cholera. That's where UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, came in. UNICEF provided a new solar-powered water pump and filtration system to bring clean water directly into La Horca's 35 homes. Now, Rosibel and her entire village have safe water to drink and Rosibel is left with plenty of time to study and play with her little brother.
With a presence in 156 countries, UNICEF is striving to duplicate this success worldwide. By voting for this project, you can help UNICEF save millions of children's lives. We know what needs to be done, we just need your help to do it. Only 2 cents will purchase one water purification tablet to clean 5 liters of water, $48 can purchase a portable latrine and $5,000 can buy a solar water pump, like the one installed in Rosibel's village. UNICEF partners with communities to provide these and other innovative, low-cost and life-saving solutions for the world's most vulnerable children and their families.
July 6, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
June 26, 2007
Zoellick becomes World Bank president
The Executive Directors of the World Bank yesterday unanimously selected Robert Zoellick as the 11th President of the bank for a five-year term.
The President of the bank is ex-officio President of the International Development Association (IDA) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the Administrative Council of the International Centre of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
This announcement affects every aspect of environmental, energy, and resources law, of course, due to the Bank's pivotal role in financing development -- and thereby setting development policy throughout the world. So, who is this masked man?
Here's the Bank's bio:
Professional History of Mr. Robert B. Zoellick
Mr. Zoellick, a U.S. national, is currently Vice Chairman, International, of Goldman Sachs Group, and a Managing Director and Chairman of Goldman Sach’s Board of International Advisors. He has served in a number of senior positions in successive US administrations, including as Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of State, and as U.S. Trade Representative (2001-05). He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Policy, US Department of Treasury, and Undersecretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and Counselor in the U.S. State Department. He was Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae (1993-1997), the large U.S. mortgage finance corporation, as well as Vice President and Assistant to the Chairman and CEO. In addition, he served as Olin Visiting Professor, U.S. Naval Academy, as Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs, as Research Scholar, Belfer Center, Harvard University, and previously on three corporate boards, as well as numerous research and non-profit boards.
Mr. Zoellick has a J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, and a M.P.P. (in public management and international issues) from the Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Mr. Zoellick has received numerous distinguished service awards.
Read between the lines: Zoellick is a Bush loyalist and true believer in globalization for the benefit of corporate interests and the wealthy. Wouldn't it be refreshing sometime for the World Bank to be led by someone who is committed to reducing international poverty and who has on the ground development experience -- rather than ideological theorizing and strategizing experience.
Unfortunately, and I say this as an alumna of both, Zoellick's Kennedy School and HLS credentials just mean he's smart, not moral or committed to the public he is supposed to serve.
June 26, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
June 23, 2007
CERCLA private cost recovery
The Supreme Court granted certiorari in du Pont v. U.S., 460 F.3d 515 (3rd Cir. 2006),which held that potentially responsible parties (PRPs) did not have
an implied cause of action under CERCLA 107(a) or common law to
recover voluntarily incurred cleanup cost from other PRPs. The Supreme
Court also vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further
consideration in light of U.S. v. Atlantic Research Corp., 2007 WL
1661465 (2007). Atlantic Research Corp. held that CERCLA 107(a)
provides PRPs with a cause of action to recover such voluntarily
incurred costs from other PRPs. (Case below: E.I. DuPont de Nemours
& Co. v. United States, 460 F.3d 515 (C.A.3-N.J. 2006).)
The Supreme Court granted certiorari in du Pont v. U.S., 460 F.3d 515 (3rd Cir. 2006),which held that potentially responsible parties (PRPs) did not have an implied cause of action under CERCLA 107(a) or common law to recover voluntarily incurred cleanup cost from other PRPs. The Supreme Court also vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of U.S. v. Atlantic Research Corp., 2007 WL 1661465 (2007). Atlantic Research Corp. held that CERCLA 107(a) provides PRPs with a cause of action to recover such voluntarily incurred costs from other PRPs. (Case below: E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. v. United States, 460 F.3d 515 (C.A.3-N.J. 2006).)
March 06, 2007
The Lessons of the Montreal Protocol
I remember sitting about 20 years ago in a conference room of the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment Division in the Justice Department. As the Department's policy representative, I was listening to representatives of several CFC manufacturers who were trying to prevent US implementation of the Montreal Protocol. They explained that it was simply infeasible for the CFC manufacturers to comply with the Montreal Protocol. I am extremely glad that no one believed them: since that time the US has effectively implemented the Protocol, even to the point of criminally prosecuting car repair shops that mishandled air conditioning refrigerants regulated under the Montreal Protocol.
Science reports on a new study published in PNAS indicating that the Montreal protocol has limited the growth in global warming as well as helping repair the ozone layer. Indeed, so far its beneficial effects in limiting global warming outstrip those of Kyoto. That should really come as no surprise. First of all, the Montreal Protocol has been fully implemented and in effect far longer. Second, it regulated some of the most detrimental GHGs because of their effect on the ozone layer -- so essentially the Montreal Protocol picked some of the "low-hanging fruit" --an overworked, but accurate metaphor for the most easily accomplished changes.
However, most importantly, the Montreal Protocol used an effective regulatory approach. There is little doubt that the most effective regulatory device is a phased-in ban or stringent cap, particularly one that allows trading during the phase down, which in turn efficiently distributes the costs of phase down to the least cost avoiders. [In this respect, a cap with marketable rights is far superior to a tax because we have real certainty about the environmental target that will be accomplished through the cap, whereas the amount of a tax to hit the target is guesswork, that may well require multiple adjustments, thus reducing regulatory certainty and industry willingness to commit R & D].
We've verified that theoretical observation with the real life successes of the CAA lead phase down as well as the acid rain program. The key is a strict schedule for the phasedown and stringent targets. It gives industry the regulatory certainty necessary to invest in necessary R & D -- and even if industry does not believe it is feasible to hit the target when the target is first established (as indeed the CFC manufacturers claimed at the time), industry is remarkably adept at finding ways to do seeming impossible tasks. Indeed, that is the genius of free enterprise.
Obviously, Kyoto was intended to be the beginning of a phase-down of carbon emissions. But it hasn't worked as well as it might have due to the constant uncertainty about post-2012 requirements.
There is a lesson in this for the world's policymakers if they are willing to learn. The tripe currently being circulated in policy circles about "maintaining flexibility in the face of improving or changing information" is just that -- tripe. Regulatory certainty is essential to induce the magnitude of investment necessary to get us out of the carbon trap. Sometimes we just have to say "no," provide a series of targets and firm deadlines, ease the pain and create flexibility in implementation through well-designed trading programs that first and foremost hit the targets, and use strong enforcement mechanisms to assure compliance. Then, we can actually accomplish something.
Since reducing carbon emissions is something we really need to accomplish, we need to use the lessons of the past about how to effectively regulate, and refuse to listen to theoretical nonsense about optimal regulation. We know how to do this. We just need to do it. Now.
So far, the CFC ban has prevented the release of far more greenhouse gases (green and blue lines) than have the CO2 reduction targets imposed by the Kyoto Protocol (red line). See full story from Science News below.
Dodging a Warming Bullet
By Phil Berardelli
ScienceNOW Daily News
5 March 2007
What's good for the ozone layer has been even better for Earth's climate. According to a new study, a 20-year-old ban on ozone-depleting chemicals has been extremely effective at curbing greenhouse gases as well. In fact, it has already had more impact than a fully implemented Kyoto Protocol would have accomplished, even though the protocol was specifically designed to target atmospheric warming. The findings, say the authors, emphasize the importance of ridding the planet of these powerful greenhouse substances.
Ratified by 169 countries since 1999, the Kyoto Protocol requires its signatories to set caps on carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Both gasses--commonly produced by fossil fuel burning and agriculture--have long been recognized as contributors to global warming because they trap heat in the upper atmosphere. But by focusing solely on this type of emissions, Kyoto has missed the most potent offenders, the researchers say.
For example, says atmospheric scientist Guus Velders of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in Bilthoven, the class of compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) traps 5000 to 14,000 times more heat, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide, and 400 times more heat than methane. Policymakers, however, initially targeted these compounds not for their role in global warming but rather for their damage to the ozone layer. Just one CFC molecule can rip apart thousands of ozone molecules, exposing life on Earth to the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was ratified by 191 countries to curb CFC emissions from sources such as refrigeration, dry cleaning, and foam insulation. The strategy has been effective: The rise in atmospheric concentrations of CFCs has been arrested, and the ozone layer has begun to show signs of recovery, to the point where scientists predict it will heal completely sometime after 2050.
The real surprise, though, is the dramatic impact the reduction of CFCs has already had on global climate change. In a paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Velders and colleagues calculate that since 1987, gradually shutting down CFC emissions has removed the equivalent of about 11 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (or about 0.55 billion tons per year that the Montreal Protocol has been active). By comparison, even if the Kyoto Protocol had been fully ratified (the United States and Australia, among others, have not signed on) it would have removed only about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide thus far (or about 0.25 billion tons per year that the Kyoto Protocol has been active). So for CO2 emissions curbs to match the impact of the ban on ozone-depleting chemicals, they would have had to be over five times more restrictive.
The calculations are "very straightforward," says Velders, and although the link between CFC removal and climate has not been quantified this precisely before, "now that it has, the impact seems obvious."
K. Madhava Sarma, the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme's Ozone Secretariat, agrees. He thinks policymakers should act to curb emissions of some of the chemicals that have been used to replace CFCs. One group, hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs, is easier on the ozone layer, but its members are also powerful greenhouse gases. There are alternatives available to these chemicals "that are both ozone and climate safe," says Sarma, and he suggests that the Montreal signatories consider adopting "these alternatives instead of HCFCs wherever feasible." A third category, hydrofluorocarbons, are even worse atmospheric heat collectors than CFCs, but because they don't affect ozone, Sarma says, the Kyoto partners must address them.
February 26, 2007
Spirit of the Eagle
This blog is devoted principally to the professional or academic aspects of environmental law, policy, science, and ethics. But like any blogger, I do have a life. Anyone interested in the slightly less academic side of me is welcome to visit Spirit of the Eagle, my personal blog.
February 26, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
February 06, 2007
2007 Drink Water for Life
Drink Water for Life Challenge
As readers know, the royalties of this blog are now devoted to international NGOs providing safe, clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.
The 7th Millennium Development Goal seeks to cut in half the number of people without those essentials by 2015. Current estimates are that it will cost about $16 billion additional per year until 2015 to accomplish that goal. I find it unbelievable that we cannot globally achieve that goal, especially when unnecessary deaths from water-borne diseases exceed 2 million, mostly children, each year. That's one child every 15 seconds.
For those of you who are members of faith-based communities, I suggest that you sponsor a DRINK WATER FOR LIFE challenge associated with your congregation. Drink water instead of lattes (sodas, bottled water, coffee, alcohol). Do it for Lent (or your appropriate analogous spiritual break). Get your friends, your synagogue or church, school or workplace to do the same. Collect the money you save, gather it together on Easter (or whatever date makes sense in your faith tradition), put it in a Water Fund, and send it to one of the organizations that do this work. With just $5000, an entire village of 200 - 500 people can be supplied with safe, clean, sustainable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education.
If you need addresses of faith-based organization who do this work, or secular charitable organizations who do this work, let me know. If you need flyers explaining the problem, let me know. Together we can make a difference.
February 6, 2007 in Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 12, 2007
25th Annual ABA SEER Water Law Conference
American Bar Association
February 22-23, 2007
NRC Trashes OMB's January 2006 Risk Assessment Guidelines
The Bush Administration will rework OMB's controversial risk assessment proposal after the National Research Council expert panel reviewing the proposal called the approach "fundamentally flawed." NRC Report on OMB Risk Assessment Guidelines. The January 2006 proposed risk assessment technical guidelines were developed by former OIRA director John Graham to improve federal risk assessments, which OMB criticized in the cases of dioxin, mercury, perchlorate, and mad cow disease.
The proposal generated substantial public comment over the last year. Industry supported the proposal. Public health experts and environmental groups contended that the guidelines would prevent government agencies from regulating health hazards by setting technical risk assessment standards that were difficult -- or even impossible -- to meet.
OMB submitted the proposal to the National Research Council for review. According John Ahearne, chair of the NRC review committee, the committee decided that the proposal was broken beyond repair. It contained a confusing, overly broad definition of risk assessment, omitted crucial aspects of risk assessment such as how to handle absence of adequate information and assumed sufficient data would be readily available. And, more fundamentally, OMB failed to demonstrate that costly changes in the federal risk assessment process were necessary. The 18-person NRC committee unanimously agreed that OMB should withdraw the January 2006 proposed guidelines. NRC Executive Summary
RegWatch, rejoiced yesterday, with the following post:
This morning, the National Academy of Sciences rejected the White House Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Proposed Risk Assessment Bulletin. OMB charged NAS with the task of peer-reviewing the bulletin, and NAS issued a stinging rebuke.>
The Bulletin calls for an overly standardized method across all agencies of assessing the potential risks of regulatory action. No matter if the issue is the environment, consumer products, or massive buildings and infrastructure, the framework would be the same.
NAS cites concerns that OMB is overstepping its bounds in suggesting this restrictive framework, and that micromanaging the ways in which agencies go about their business stymies the expertise within those agencies. Ultimately, NAS smartly concludes that this one-size-fits-all approach is unrealistic and would not jibe well with scientific and technological findings:
We began our review of the draft bulletin thinking we would only be recommending changes, but the more we dug into it, the more we realized that from a scientific and technical standpoint, it should be withdrawn altogether.
OMB has called off the Bulletin for now. Reg Watch revels in sound science trumping politics this time around.
Read more about how the Bulletin would lead to dangerous deregulations.
Posted by Matt Madia
December 16, 2006
EU reaches with REACH
E.U. Clamps Down on Hazardous Chemicals
By Malin Sandström
ScienceNOW Daily News
14 December 2006
European lawmakers passed a sweeping environmental law yesterday that will regulate nearly a third of the roughly 100,000 chemicals produced in or imported to the European Union (E.U.). Called Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals, or REACH, the bill is 8 years in the making and has been one of the most intensely lobbied pieces of legislation in E.U. history. Industry groups are bracing for the changes while some environmental organizations say the law does not go far enough.
REACH got rolling in 1998 when E.U. environment ministers called for stricter controls on a variety of industry chemicals known to harm human health. Since then, industry and consumer activists have lobbied intensely for changes and amendments.
The main targets of the legislation are flame retardants and other common chemicals, with poorly documented risks, as well as "substances of very high concern," such as solvents and other chemicals that cause cancer, damage genes, or impair fertility. Industries using these chemicals will have to register them with a new E.U. Chemicals Agency set up in Helsinki, Finland. Under the legislation, companies would need to find safer alternatives to any chemicals deemed to be of high concern to human health. Other chemicals could be banned outright.
Some innovation is likely to be triggered by REACH, says Thomas Jostmann, executive director of the European Chemical Industry Council, Cefic. But the European chemical industry fears the bill places an undue burden on smaller companies. A chief complaint is the high cost of meeting REACH's standards, estimated at 2.8 billion to 5.2 billion euros over 11 years. (For its part, the European Commission says that the costs borne by the chemical industry will be offset by health benefits totaling 50 billion euros over 30 years.)
Environmental groups have complaints of their own. Greenpeace and WWF say REACH has several loopholes, such as permitting the continued use of most hazardous chemicals even if a safer alternative is available. All manufacturers need do, they say, is demonstrate that they are exercising "adequate control" of the chemical--a term that is not yet defined. Another criticism--especially from the public--has been the many animal tests that will be necessary. In a statement made last year, Günter Verheugen, the vice president of the European Commission in charge of Enterprise and Industry, said the regulations imposed by REACH could lead to tests on up to 3.9 million extra animals per year.
Still, environmentalists are happy that the "burden of proof" for chemical safety is finally shifted to the producers and importers of chemicals. And Jostmann says the chemical industry will benefit from enforcement of better communication about substances--something that has proved to be difficult without a legal structure.
The E.U. will begin to implement aspects of REACH starting in June. The full law will be phased in gradually for 11 years after that.