Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Environment roundup

Advance toward one-stop federal permitting

One-stop permitting, an idea with a considerable track record of success at the state level, may finally be coming to the federal government. “The agencies will work to develop a single environmental Impact Statement and sign a single record of decision and the lead agency will seek written agreement from other agencies at key points. [The memorandum] also seeks to try to quickly resolve interagency disputes.” [Reuters, Common Good]

Environment roundup

  • “Lolita the killer whale has lived at Miami Seaquarium since 1970. Do the conditions of her confinement, including sharing her tank with dolphins that engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, amount to ‘harm’ and ‘harassment’ in violation of federal statute? The Eleventh Circuit says no.” [John Ross, Short Circuit, on PETA v. Miami Seaquarium]
  • California suit about Prop 65 warnings on coffee grinds on [Sara Randazzo/WSJ, Pierre Lemieux/EconLog, earlier]
  • NYC mayor De Blasio, who recently filed long-shot suit, says he hopes to “bring death knell to fossil fuel industry” [John Breslin, Legal NewsLine] “People don’t need to smoke cigarettes, but they have needed energy for many decades,” one of many reasons suing Big Oil is different from suing Big Tobacco [Amy Harder, Axios]
  • Squirrel rescue saga: “I begged and pleaded for a few more weeks, but was essentially told I needed to release him even though it was the middle of winter.” [Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times]
  • Aluminum smelter vs. orchards: a historic instance of nuisance litigation working well as a regulatory method? [Douglas Kysar, SSRN]
  • “Privatizing Federal Grazing Lands” [Chris Edwards, Cato]

Cutting project red tape

I have favorable words in this Fox News special report for the Trump administration’s push to streamline infrastructure permitting. Currently, even relatively straightforward projects can get stalled for years; states and cities have helped show the way with one-stop permitting, “concierge” service, shorter decision deadlines, and rules that reduce handles for litigation. Philip K. Howard’s Common Good organization, which has been working on this issue for years, likes the push too.

California scheme to fine waiters $1,000 for offering plastic straws

Under a California bill introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderone and backed by the L.A. Times, restaurants would be permitted to give plastic straws only to patrons who ask for them. A widely cited statistic in support of the measure turns out to be based on research done by a 9 year old. [Christian Britschgi, Reason; who updates the story to say the sponsor now intends to revise the bill to take out the fines]

Environment roundup

Monument designations and White House proclamations

Some imagine President Obama can expand the bounds of national monuments by unilateral proclamation, but President Trump cannot shrink them back by the same mechanism. But that’s not how it works, explained Jonathan Wood in a September piece on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante controversy.

More: Ronald Bailey. And Randal O’Toole on a high-profile lawsuit:

I visited the Patagonia web site looking for some Christmas presents yesterday and learned that “the president stole my land.” How horrible! So I looked into it and discovered that President Trump took federal land that was managed by a particular set of federal agencies under a particular set of restrictions and changed it into federal land managed by the very same federal agencies under a slightly different set of restrictions. Not to jump on Patagonia, whose clothing I’ve always enjoyed, but where’s the theft in that?

Scientist sues colleagues over renewables claims

“Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson, whose research argues the U.S. power grid could run exclusively on renewable energy by 2050, is taking his critics to court. Jacobson filed a $10 million libel lawsuit in September against Chris Clack, a mathematician and chief executive of Vibrant Clean Energy, and the National Academy of Sciences, after the Academy published an article by Clack and 20 co-authors criticizing the 2015 study. The co-authors are not named in the suit.” [Lindsay Marchello/Reason, Keith Pickering/Daily Kos, Robert Bryce/NRO] Here’s Jonathan Adler:

…Some of the arguments made in the complaint are a bit bizarre. For instance, Jacobson claims the NAS violated its conflict-of-interest disclosure policies by failing to note that some of the contributors to the Clack, et al., paper are “advocates” for various policy positions. Yet Jacobson’s own paper doesn’t list his own policy advocacy as a potential conflict of interest either.

The idea that academic researchers should turn to court when their work is criticized or contradicted by other researchers is a pernicious one, challenging the sort of robust inquiry upon which scientific research and the discovery of knowledge require. It is absolutely essential that researchers are free to posit hypotheses and subject others’ hypotheses to critique. This inevitably entails not just questioning other researchers’ conclusions, but also pointing out potential errors and mistakes. Of course it’s true that strong critiques of one’s academic work may have an effect on one’s academic reputation, but that goes with the territory. The same goes for making erroneous allegations against other researchers. If the fear of such reputational harms is compounded by the threat of litigation, academic inquiry will be chilled as researchers become more reluctant to point out the problems in each others’ work….

Like Michael Mann’s long-running defamation suit, this complaint appears to be little more than an effort to use a legal club to stifle robust critique and debate. (In that regard, it should be no surprise that Jacobson’s suit was filed in the same venue.)

“How Washington Made Harvey Worse”

“A federal insurance program made Harvey far more costly—and Congress could have known it was coming.” [Michael Grunwald, Politico, more] And from July, “Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program: Toward Private Flood Insurance” [Ike Brannon and Ari Blask, Cato Policy Analysis]

More: “Lack of Zoning Is Not Houston’s Problem” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato; Nolan Gray, CityLab]