Week in Review

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President Biden safeguards national monuments, a federal appeals court reinstates a Texas abortion law, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • President Joseph R. Biden signed proclamations restoring protections to three national monuments: the Bears Ears National Monument, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. President Biden noted that he will restore the protections that former President Donald J. Trump removed from these monuments. President Biden stated, for example, that he planned to restore the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to its full protected size after President Trump removed protections from nearly half the monument. Discussing the importance of conserving U.S. parks and monuments, Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said that the proclamations “ensure that our children, and our children’s children, will be able to experience the wonder, history, and beauty of these extraordinary public lands and waters.”
  • A federal appeals court reinstated a restrictive Texas abortion law, which bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, until the court determines the constitutionality of the law. The U.S. Department of Justice argued that the law should not be temporarily reinstated because Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had not sufficiently demonstrated that the law is constitutional. The Justice Department also insisted that Texas would not be significantly harmed if the law’s enforcement is paused until its constitutionality is decided. Moreover, the Justice Department argued that the law will “substantially injure” Texas citizens and conflicts with  “the public interest.” President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, demanded that the U.S. Supreme Court “step in and stop this madness.”
  • Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a strategy to increase offshore wind leasing. Offshore wind leases allow commercial firms to develop wind farms, which use wind to generate electricity. The proposed strategy called for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to sell offshore leases for up to seven new sites by 2025. The agency’s actions support the Biden Administration’s earlier executive order on the climate crisis, which called for doubling the amount of offshore wind production by 2030.
  • Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, issued a memorandum calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to enforce existing employment laws and standards more effectively. Mayorkas outlined “fundamental principles” agencies should strive to achieve, such as increasing workers’ willingness to report workplace violations, and called on the agencies to review their existing policies to ensure alignment with the new fundamental principles. Mayorkas also declared the end to mass worksite raids, which were used previously “as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers’ assertion of labor laws.”
  • The U.S. Department of Energy announced a plan to increase the amount of community solar available in the United States. Community solar, the Energy Department explained, allows individuals—who may not otherwise be able to install solar on their homes—to subscribe to a communal project and receive revenue from the energy generated to lower the costs of their energy bills. The Energy Department projected that its plan would increase the number of homes that could be powered by community solar from 600,000 homes to 5 million homes. The Energy Department noted that increasing community solar “will help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits of renewable energy.”
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the state. Abbott’s order also prohibited employers and businesses from requiring proof of vaccinations from employees or customers. Although Abbott noted that COVID-19 vaccinations “are strongly encouraged,” he also stated that they “must always be voluntary for Texans.” Some large businesses with offices in Texas, such as Dell, IBM, and American Airlines, have chosen to follow federal requirements for employee vaccinations rather than Abbotts’ ban. The Mayo Clinic estimated that about 52 percent of people in Texas are currently fully vaccinated.
  • In an executive order, President Biden established an initiative that will require certain agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of the Interior, to advance educational and economic opportunities for Native American communities. President Biden directed the Education Department and the Interior Department to collaborate with Tribal Nations and Native Entities, such as Alaska Native Corporations, to reduce barriers to higher education for Native American communities. Under the initiative, participating agencies should expand technical job training for Native peoples and develop multi-agency efforts to provide “a rigorous and well-rounded education” for Native American students, among other things. In addition, President Biden created an advisory council that will support the initiative’s goals to improve education, establish public and private partnerships, and outline career paths for Native Americans.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued guidance for the food industry to reduce sodium in processed, prepared, and packaged food. The guidance contained short-term voluntary sodium targets for various food categories, such as cheeses, soups, and breads, among others. Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Janet Woodcock said that the guidance focuses on the food industry, rather than individuals, because individuals cannot control the amount of sodium in the food that they buy. In the guidance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration noted that over 70 percent of total sodium intake comes from sodium that is added to food during manufacturing and commercial food preparation processes.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a paper issued by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, Anuj Krishnamurthy, research assistant at the Kleinman Center, and Oscar Serpell, director of academic programming at the Kleinman Center, discussed how demand for renewable energy in the United States will drive competition for land use by different types of energy producers. Krishnamurthy and Serpell explained that although some farms already sell space for various types of energy production, solar is increasingly becoming a more financially viable option. Krishnamurthy and Serpell argued that solar may be a better option for on-farm energy development than oil and gas because solar poses less of an economic risk and is better for the environment. Krishnamurthy and Serpell concluded that to increase on-farm solar development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture should increase funding for these projects and regulators should clarify ambiguous definitions in agricultural and energy regulations.
  • In a Brookings Institution report, Sanjay Patnaik and Kelly Kennedy argued that the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress should charge a price on carbon emissions—otherwise known as carbon pricing. Patnaik and Kennedy contended that carbon pricing can contribute significantly to halving carbon emissions by 2030, as required by President Biden’s climate goals. Patnaik and Kennedy also advocated a carbon border adjustment tax, which protects domestic companies by charging foreign imports for their carbon emissions. Patnaik and Kennedy noted, however, that policymakers must implement domestic carbon pricing before a carbon border adjustment tax to avoid retaliation in global trade from countries such as China and India. Finally, Patnaik and Kennedy maintained that establishing carbon pricing will allow U.S. companies to make long-term plans and competitive investments.
  • In a report prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Directorate for Public Governance, the group outlined practices and trends in regulatory policy. The authors recommended that governments undertake a “regulatory reboot” to address new policy challenges, including those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The group noted the importance of innovation and technology in regulatory practices and urged governments to revisit their approaches, rather than setting one-time policies, to assess whether rules accomplish their stated objectives “in practice, not just on paper.”

FLASHBACK FRIDAY

  • In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Cynthia R. Harris, director of tribal programs at the Environmental Law Institute, argued that Tribal Nations are leading the way in reducing plastic waste. Harris noted that because states have limited regulatory authority over tribal lands, tribes are exerting their sovereignty to regulate single-use plastics in spite of state laws that prohibit such measures. For instance, Seminole Gaming of the Seminole Tribe in Florida banned plastic bags and straws at its six casinos. Harris praised the Tribal Nations’ innovative strategies to remediating environmental issues, noting that Indigenous people are the first to feel “environmental stressors” but remain at the “forefront of pioneering solutions.”