Category Archives: Environment

Strategic Silence: Withholding Certification Status as a Hypocrisy Avoidance Tactic

Source: W. Chad Carlos, Ben W. Lewis, Administrative Science Quarterly, OnlineFirst, First Published February 1, 2017
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From the abstract:
We examine why organizations that obtain prominent certifications may at times elect not to publicize them. Drawing on the impression management literature, we argue and show that concerns about being perceived as hypocritical may cause organizations to strategically withhold their certification status. Using a longitudinal panel of corporations that were members of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, a prominent environmental certification, we show that in the face of reputational threats, organizations are less likely to publicize their certification status when the threat appears to directly contradict the claims implied by the certification. Our findings suggest that the threat of hypocrisy is amplified for firms with stronger reputations in the same domain as the certification and when audience members better understand and value the certification. Our findings delineate new boundary conditions under which firms will make prosocial claims and inspire reconsideration of long-held assumptions about the process of decoupling the implementation and communication of socially valued practices. This study also provides insights for scholars of nonmarket strategy on how corporations strategically communicate with external constituents about their sustainability initiatives.

Fight Trump. Work From Home.

Source: Tasneem Rajamar, Mother Jones, April 2017

Remote jobs are great for work-life balance—and democracy. ….. By 2020, Dell hopes that half its workforce will be doing at least some remote work. A report released by the company in June 2016 found that thanks to telecommuting, 35,000 US employees each saved the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon dioxide on average every year—even when you consider the extra energy required for heat and lights in a home office….. What’s more, a group of researchers found that for low-income people, the longer their commute is, the less likely they are to vote. And another study shows that no other daily activity brings out as many negative emotions as the morning commute—not dealing with the kids, cleaning the dishes, or even being at work. When you’re already stressed out and annoyed, finding the energy to engage politically is just that much harder…..
Related:
The Sustainability Benefits of the Connected Workplace
Source: John Pflueger, Sarah Gibson, Christian Normand, Dell, June 2016

The “Daily Grind” – Work, Commuting, and Their Impact on Political Participation
Source: Benjamin J. Newman, Joshua Johnson, Patrick L. Lown, American Politics Research, Vol 42, Issue 1, 2014
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Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being
Source: Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 20, Number 1, Winter 2006

LGR: Local Government Review

Source: Public Management (PM), Special Section, December 2016
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In the tradition of The Municipal Year Book, LGR: Local Government Review—a special section of Public Management (PM)—will present key research findings and expert insights about local government issues and trends. This is the first in what we anticipate being a series of LGR special sections.

Sustainability and Local Governments: Planning Helps Balance Environmental, Economic, and Social Equity Priorities
BY GEORGE C. HOMSY, MILDRED E. WARNER, AND LU LIAO
ICMA’s sustainability survey indicates that many local governments now recognize the important role that environmental protection plays in establishing a foundation for both short- and long-term economic development. Funding and economic development drive sustainability, and lack of funding is the number one barrier to sustainability. The survey also shows that attention to sustainability’s third dimension, social equity, lags behind. Higher inclusion of social equity concerns in disaster planning may provide a template for integrating social equity issues more effectively into sustainability plans. The survey also found that local governments seem to learn best from each other.

Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis: The Critical Role of Local Government Leadership
BY JELANI NEWTON
As income growth lags behind growth in housing costs, housing affordability is a growing concern in post-recession America. Local governments play a critical role in assessing the specific housing needs of the communities they serve, then developing and implementing customized strategies to effectively meet those needs. Three case studies highlight the unique challenges and targeted strategies of three cities—Miami, Florida; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; and San Antonio, Texas.

Supreme Court Review for Local Governments: Quick roundup of last term’s cases affecting cities and counties
BY LISA SORONEN

Why Local Governments Are Talking about Millennials: Shifting demographics make succession planning a high priority
BY ELIZABETH KELLAR
Demographic shifts explain why organizations are paying so much attention to Millennials. In just four years, people born in 1978 or later will make up 56 percent of the workforce. The percentage of baby boomers—27 percent of the workforce in 2016—will decline to 17 percent in 2020, and Gen X will hold steady at 27 percent of the workforce. How does today’s local government workforce stack up with these broader demographic shifts?

Most States Are Combating Climate Change and Growing Their Economies

Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, December 8, 2016

But a new report, released right after Trump nominated a climate skeptic to lead the EPA, shows that some states still have rising emissions.
Related:
Growth, carbon, and Trump: State progress and drift on economic growth and emissions ‘decoupling’
Source: Devashree Saha and Mark Muro, Brookings Institution, December 8, 2016

…..With the stunning election of Donald Trump to the presidency, every aspect of the low-carbon paradigm for national and world progress has been thrown into doubt, starting with the federal government’s support of the quest to “decarbonize” the economy by decoupling economic growth from emissions growth.

All of which raises the question of how resilient the decarbonization paradigm is at the state and local level. Given their substantial powers to encourage emissions decoupling, states and cities are crucial players in the carbon drama. Therefore, it is worth assessing whether states’ and localities’ momentum on decoupling is strong enough to maintain recent progress.

And so this brief takes a look at state-level decoupling trends by matching data on real GDP growth between 2000 and 2014 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia with data on energy-related carbon dioxide emissions for the same years and locations. In doing so, the brief provides an initial baseline look at the pace and geography of state-side decoupling and decarbonization—with an eye to assessing state-level momentum on the brink of federal pull-back…..

Boomtown, Flood Town

Source: Neena Satija for The Texas Tribune and Reveal; Kiah Collier for The Texas Tribune; and Al Shaw for ProPublica, December 7, 2016

Climate change will bring more frequent and fierce rainstorms to cities like Houston. But unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone. ….

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Program Overview and Issues

Source: Mary Tiemann, Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRS Report, RS22037, November 8, 2016

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the federal authority for regulating contaminants in public water supplies. It includes the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, established in 1996 to help public water systems finance infrastructure projects needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet the SDWA’s health objectives. Under this program, states receive annual capitalization grants to provide financial assistance (primarily subsidized loans) to public water systems for drinking water projects and other specified activities. Between FY1997 and FY2015, Congress had appropriated approximately $20 billion, and more than 12,400 projects had received assistance through the program.

The latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) survey of capital improvement needs indicates that public water systems need to invest $384.2 billion on infrastructure improvements over 20 years to ensure the provision of safe tap water. EPA reports that, although all of the identified projects promote the public health objectives of the SDWA, just $42.0 billion (10.9%) of reported needs are attributable to SDWA compliance. A study by the American Water Works Association projects that restoring aging infrastructure and expanding water systems to keep up with population growth would require a nationwide investment of at least $1 trillion through 2035……

A Law of Just Transitions?: Putting Labor Law to Work on Climate Change

Source: David J. Doorey, Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 35/2016, October 26, 2015 (Last revised: April 19, 2016)

From the abstract:
Climate change will dramatically affect labor markets, but labor law scholars have mostly ignored it. Environmental law scholars are concerned with climate change, but they lack expertise in the complexities of regulating the labor relationship. Neither legal field is equipped to deal adequately with the challenge of governing the effects of climate change on labor markets, employers, and workers. This essay argues that a legal field organized around the concept of a ‘just transition’ to a lower carbon economy could bring together environmental law, labor law, and environment justice scholars in interesting and valuable ways. “Just transitions” is a concept originally developed by the North American labor movement, but has since been endorsed by important global institutions including the International Labour Organization and the U.N. Environmental Program. However, the prescriptions that would guide a policy of just transition have been under-explored in the legal literature. This paper marks an important early contribution to this challenge. It explores the factual and normative boundaries of a legal field called Just Transitions Law and questions whether such a field would offer any new, valuable insights into the challenge of regulating a response to climate change.

Blue Cities, Red States

Source: Abby Rapoport, American Prospect, August 22, 2016

As cities have moved left and states have moved right, the conflicts between them have escalated. ….

…..“PREEMPTION” LAWS ARE not new, nor are they necessarily about undoing local legislation. But with some notable exceptions, past preemption laws have generally enforced what can be called “minimum preemption”: They force localities to do something where they might otherwise have done little or nothing. As it’s often said, they set a “floor” for regulation. For instance, the federal government has been setting minimum standards of environmental protection for years, preempting the states from allowing lower environmental standards. Similarly, states often set a floor for various local regulations, whether regarding pollution, trade licensing, gun ownership, or other matters.

Most current preemption laws, by contrast, are what one might call “maximum preemption.” These laws aren’t about setting minimums; instead, they prohibit local regulation. States have prevented localities from creating paid sick leave requirements for businesses, or raising the minimum wage. Many who oppose these measures blame their proliferation on the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has drafted “model” preemption bills for state lawmakers to use. “Pretty much anything you can think of that matters to the American family is under assault by local preemption,” says Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which fights preemption laws around the country……

Fire Departments, Airports and Military Bases May Be More Toxic to Workers Than You Think

Source: Elizabeth Grossman, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, August 11, 2016

Drinking water supplies for at least six million Americans contain toxic industrial chemicals at levels that exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended safety limit. This number is likely an underestimate since the information available through the EPA does not include data for about one-third of Americans—those 100 million or more people who rely on private wells or the vast majority of public water systems that serve communities with populations of 10,000 or less. These are the conclusions of a new study whose authors include scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of California at Berkeley and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The study “is just showing us the tip of the iceberg,” says author Philippe Grandjean, Harvard T.H. Chan adjunct professor of environmental health and University of Southern Denmark professor of environmental medicine. What also remains largely undocumented is the extent of exposure to workers on the frontline of this chemical use.

While industrial sites were previously recognized as sources of these highly fluorinated, toxic and environmentally-persistent compounds, this is the first nationwide study to document that wastewater treatment plants, along with military bases and airports where these chemicals are used in fire-fighting foams, are also contributing significantly to drinking water contamination. The study reports groundwater and surface water near some of these bases and airports with concentrations of these chemicals 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the EPA’s health advisory level for drinking water….
Related:
Detection of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S. Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and Wastewater Treatment Plants
Source: Xindi C. Hu, David Q. Andrews, Andrew B. Lindstrom, Thomas A. Bruton, Laurel A. Schaider, Philippe Grandjean, Rainer Lohmann, Courtney C. Carignan, Arlene Blum, Simona A. Balan, Christopher P. Higgins, and Elsie M. Sunderland, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, August 9, 2016
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