Public Health

California Adopts Nation-Leading Legislation to Cut Plastic Pollution

Less than 10 percent of the world’s plastic waste is recycled. Photo credit: Bo Eide, Flickr

Extended producer responsibility law will reduce single-use waste and shift responsibility to industry

In a welcome reprieve from news coming out of the Supreme Court, here’s an uplifting story from the Golden State: On Thursday, Governor Newsom signed SB 54, a comprehensive piece of legislation aimed at significantly reducing single-use waste. The law will affect just about every type of plastic packaging you see walking down the supermarket …

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Whose Interests Count? And How Much?

Whether to consider harms to foreign countries and future generations is controversial. So is how much weight to give harm to the poor.

Should regulators take into account harm to people in other countries? What about harm to future generations? Should we give special attention when the disadvantaged are harmed? These questions are central to climate policy and some other important environmental issues. I’ll use cost-benefit analysis as a framework for discussing these issues. You probably don’t need …

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Pollution Control as Climate Policy

Tightening air quality standards will also reduce carbon emissions.

The Biden Administration is slowly grinding away at an important regulatory task: reconsidering the air quality standards for particulates and ozone.  Setting those standards is an arduous and time-consuming process, requiring consideration of reams of technical data. For instance, a preliminary staff report on fine particulates (PM2.5) is over 600 pages long. When the process …

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Environmental Justice, Truck Pollution, and the Biden EPA

How will EPA integrate EJ into its rule making? The answer remains murky.

EPA recently released a notice of proposed rulemaking for pollution from new heavy-duty vehicles. I was interested to see how environmental justice figured into the analysis, looking for clues about how the Biden Administration plans to make EJ part of decision making.  What I found wasn’t very enlightening. Perhaps they’re still trying to come up …

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Air Quality as Environmental Justice

National air quality standards may be among the most powerful levers for environmental justice.

The environmental justice movement began with a focus on neighborhood struggles against toxic waste facilities and other local pollution sources.  The EJ focus now includes other measures to ensure that vulnerable communities get the benefit of climate regulations. The most powerful tool for assisting those communities, however, may be the National Ambient Air Quality Standards …

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Frank G. Wells Clinic Faculty File Amicus Brief on Behalf of Law Professors in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley

Supporting Berkeley’s ability to decide where utility infrastructure may be built

This week, as part of the Frank G. Wells Clinic in Environmental Law, Cara Horowitz, Julia Stein, and I filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of seven law professors in the Ninth Circuit case California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, in which the California Restaurant Association (CRA), an industry association, is challenging a …

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Cost-Benefit Analysis: FAQs

Cost-benefit analysis has been a key part of the regulatory process since 1980. Here’s how it works.

Cost-benefit analysis is required for all major regulations. It’s also highly controversial, as well as being a mysterious procedure unless you’re an economist.  These FAQs will tell you what you need to know about how cost-benefit analysis (CBA) fits into the regulatory process, how it works, and why it’s controversial. Q: Let’s start with a …

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When Agencies Fail  

Lives can be lost when agencies fall down on the job.

What happens when agencies fail in their jobs? People can die. The most dramatic example is the opioid crisis, in which a whole series of state and federal agencies fell short.  The result has been hundreds of thousands of deaths. The FDA was one of the prime culprits. It bought into a myth, carefully cultivated …

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Is the ‘Vaccine Mandate’ Legal?

Despite all the political huffing and puffing, Biden’s order has a solid legal basis.

Incensed critics are calling Biden’s proposed “vaccine mandate” an outrageous usurpation of power. They need to take a deep breath. It’s not really a vaccine mandate, the only statutory issue is procedural, and there’s no constitutional problem. Calling Biden’s order a vaccine mandate is misleading. It could just as well be considered a testing mandate …

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Disaster Mismanagement

12 Lessons from the COVID response in how NOT to manage a crisis.

The Trump Administration’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic surely should feature in management textbooks. Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Some of the problems derived from having a top manager who was fundamentally indifferent  and seemingly incapable of grasping basic facts. But other problems were due to inability to manage the …

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