(de)regulation nation, vol. 1 no. 5: here comes the sun

April 18, 2018 — Federal rules prohibit New York City from dumping its treated sewage into the ocean. So since 2017 the city has been shipping it by train to Alabama, where the land is cheap and the landfill regulations are easy. 

But when one Alabama town's officials sued to stop a shipment of NYC excrement from entering its borders earlier this year, the poop train stopped in nearby Parrish, pop. 982. Fast forward eight weeks and it's still there today, stinking up nearby Little League baseball fields. “It smells like rotting corpses, or carcasses. It smells like death," one resident told a reporter from the AP.

Another Parrish resident blames New York City for the reek. But Alabamans may want to look closer to home for potential solutions: Their state's lax land use regulations allow landfill operators to make a business of taking in sewage sludge, toxic coal ash, and other wastes from out of state. Parrish itself has no zoning rules that prevented the poop train from stopping there.

It's a bad situation for Parrish, but a reminder of how well-aimed environmental and public health regulations, or the lack of them, affect our daily lives.

Onward:

bad: good for thee, but not for Zinke

  • Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, is overseeing the largest rollback of protections on public lands in American history, opening millions of acres to oil and gas drilling.
  • He has also recommended opening the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic ocean coastlines to drilling.
  • But in his home state of Montana, Zinke stopped a proffer of oil and gas leases near Yellowstone National Park, and opposed gold mining near the park.
  • Zinke has also created a new national monument at Badger-Two Medicine, and encouraged President Trump to protect Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks.
  • Zinke's political ambitions in conservation-friendly Montana may be driving these moves. But the Interior chief denies he's favoring the state.
  • The president of a major Western states oil and gas industry organization now leads Interior's advisory group on inland drilling.
  • That group's "wish list" of of public lands to target for energy development.apparently became Interior's to-do list of conservation rollbacks.
  • Zinke has also been racking up unusually large expenses for air travel, much like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. 
  • He may be attempting to delay or derail investigations into this spending by House members and Interior's inspector general.
  • Read more:

more bad, now with extra Zinke

  • The Interior chief has referred to his experience as a geologist dozens of times, in many instances under oath before Congress.
  • In just two examples, Zinke has criticized the work of his own department's science bureau, the U.S. Geological Survey "from a geologist's point of view."
  • Zinke also cited his experience as geologist when exempting Florida from his proposed offshore drilling expansion.
  • But while Zinke has an undergraduate degree in geology from the University of Oregon, he has pursued military, business and political careers, not advanced science degrees or field work.
  • Read more: CNN Politics

better: peer-to-peer persuasion may derail climate denial

  • Jerry Taylor, a onetime lobbyist against climate regulations, now leads a libertarian think tank devoted to enacting a nationwide carbon tax.
  • A carbon tax would be charged to polluters, as a free market-based way to get them to lower their globe-warming air emissions.
  • Taylor and conservative allies believe that economic arguments, not scientific ones, can persuade more Republican lawmakers to admit that climate change exists, and support the carbon tax as a response.
  • Social science research suggests that if Republican political elites embrace it, the GOP base will follow.
  • Many college Republicans are embracing the carbon tax movement as well.
  • But there is a risk to using economic arguments for climate action: Reducing greenhouse gas pollution isn't necessary to creating green jobs. 
  • Read more: MIT Technology Review

good: states challenge EPA for clean air violations

  • In early April 15 attorneys general sued the EPA and its administrator, Scott Pruitt, for delaying enforcement of Obama-era methane emissions rules.
  • They also contend that EPA's failure to regulate methane pollution violates its Clean Air Act-empowered responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Methane is a powerful heat-trapping gas.
  • The states cooperating on the suit are: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, as well as Chicago.
  • Read more: The Hill

great: sun, sun, sun, here it comes

  • The Department of Energy has announced $105.5 million in funding opportunities for solar energy.
  • The department will split the funds between around 70 early-stage research projects, with up to $46 going to technologies aimed at integrating solar energy into the nation's power supply.
  • The rest will be split between initiatives that improve photovoltaic technologies; lower the price per kilowatt hour of stored solar energy; and expand the number of jobs available in the solar power industry.
  • While the White House proposed slashing 2018 funding for renewable energy and sustainable transportation by 70 percent, Congress rejected all the cuts and even increased renewable energy spends in its final 2018 budget bill.
  • Read more:

Image: Areva Solar Stands. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

 

RegulationEmily Gertz