Center for Progressive Reform

The Clean Water Act Turns 40 and the Work Is Far From Done

On October 18th, the nation will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  This landmark piece of legislation has proven remarkably successful.  Water pollution discharges from both industry and municipal sewer systems have declined sharply, the loss of wetlands has been cut decisively, and water quality has broadly improved across the country.  The Clean Water Act is, in short, a real success story.  It stands as a tribute to the foresight of those in Congress who passed it, as well as to the men and women in both state and federal regulatory agencies who have worked so hard, and for so long, to restore the integrity of our nation’s waters.

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Wall Street Journal Editorial Revives the Sport of Precaution Bashing

With characteristic audacity, the Wall Street Journal editorial page today is arguing against the precautionary approach to environmental policy that undergirds our system of environmental laws, even as the oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, they want to shift the burden of proof and only allow regulators to restrain corporate greed when the government can first quantify and monetize the environmental harm that will result and demonstrate that it outweighs the money to be made by taking environmental risks. The problem is, of course, that when you require cost-benefit analysis, the environment loses, because most of the values at stake on that side of the equation—human lives, air you can breathe, water you can swim and fish in—just can’t be measured in dollar terms. 

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Why Commonly Used Pesticides May Be To Blame for the Deaths of So Many Members of My Farming Family

My family has gotten a lot smaller lately. My mother died in 2004, my father in 2007, and my uncle in 2008.

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A New Lawsuit May Hold the Key to Keeping Polluting Animal Waste Out of Waterways

On September 24, arguments began in Oklahoma v. Tyson, a 2005 lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Attorney General against poultry companies operating in the Illinois River Basin. The lawsuit alleges violations of federal environmental laws, state and federal public nuisance law, and state statutes regulating pollution of waterways. Oklahoma's legal strategy is unique: the state is bringing the suit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, more commonly known as the Superfund Law) to target the nonpoint source pollution of water. Success for Oklahoma in this case would signal a serious development in protecting water from nonpoint source pollution.

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Privatize the Seas? If Only Solving Overfishing Were so Easy

In this month's Atlantic, Gregg Easterbrook writes that privatizing the seas through use of individualized transferrable quotas (ITQs) is the solution to the grave problem of overfishing. Recently, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco came out strongly in favor of ITQs (which the agency is calling "catch shares"), and has committed her agency to " transitioning to catch shares " as a solution to overfishing. Would that the solution to overfishing were so easy!

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Have West Virginia Officials Lost Their Minds When It Comes to Water Safety Standards?

Here's some slippery regulatory logic: West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection says it is justified in setting less stringent levels for mercury in the state's waters than recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Why? Because, according to the WVDEP, a recent study shows that people in West Virginia eat less fish than the "average American" assumed by EPA. And if people consume less fish, they will be exposed to lower quantities of the toxic pollutants in those fish -- including methylmercury. But why might people in West Virginia eat less fish? One reason is likely the statewide fish consumption advisory warning people to limit their consumption of fish caught in all West Virginia waters, due to mercury contamination. But isn't the amount of mercury contamination permitted in the state's waters limited by the WVDEP? Well, yes. But any limitations on sources' releases of mercury are keyed to the WVDEP's water quality standard for mercury -- the one that is relatively lenient -- so sources in this case can release relatively more mercury. Which leads West Virginia to issue more restrictive fish consumption advisories. Which leads people to eat less fish. Which registers as a lower fish consumption rate in studies. Which supports WVDEP in promulgating even more lenient water quality standards for mercury. Which allows sources to release more mercury. Which leads West Virginia to issue more restrictive fish consumption advisories ...

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Why the EPA May Be About to Take Big Steps to Clean Up Our Water

Rivers, lakes, and other water bodies across the country -- including those that provide our drinking water -- are contaminated with an eclectic cocktail of pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and nutrientsGenetic mutations thought to exist only in the realm of science fiction are now readily observed in fish and other aquatic species.  Overall, the EPA estimates that only 12 percent of the nation’s waters have been surveyed, and of that small percentage more than half can no longer be used for at least one designated use.

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Legal Challenges Mount for Bottled Water Industry

In the decade between 1994 and 2004, the bottled water industry enjoyed a meteoric rise as consumers flocked to their product, paying more per gallon than gasoline and neglecting a virtually free source of water -- the tap.  Bottled water drinkers formed fierce allegiances to their favorite brands, elevating bottled water beyond a beverage to a symbol of refinement.

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We Need to Start Budgeting Water Like We Budget Our Expenses

One logical response to the constant news of the economic recession is cutting back on discretionary purchases and developing a household budget.  That is, if we know that times are tough and that we may encounter difficulties sustaining the lifestyle we've grown accustomed to, we take stock of our circumstances and plan for the future.  We look at our current income and expenses, project our future income as best as we are able, and adjust future expenses in the budget to match future income.

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