Sam Ross-Brown

Sam Ross-Brown is The American Prospect's associate editor. 

Recent Articles

Scott Pruitt’s Replacement at the EPA Will Likely Be Worse

His heir apparent looks to be a far more effective dismantler of environmental protections.

On July 5, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his resignation amid more than a dozen investigations into allegations of his ethical misconduct. Pruitt’s brief tenure at the agency was unprecedented both for its aggressive attacks on environmental rules as well as the myriad scandals surrounding his office. The 13 active federal investigations into Pruitt’s office range from misuse of public funds to financial ties with energy lobbyists to attacks on EPA staffers who questioned his actions. But for the environment, Pruitt’s departure represents, at best, a partial victory. Since taking office last year, Pruitt has made it his mission to dismantle not only core environmental protections, but also the EPA’s regulatory system itself. Yet, as is so often the case with this administration, Pruitt’s brazen and messy tactics have also served to undercut his anti-regulatory agenda. In his obsessive drive to kill the Clean Water Rule, for instance, Pruitt did...

Amazon's Race to the Bottom Puts Chicago Transit at Risk

(Sipa via AP Images)
screen_shot_2017-07-19_at_4.28.52_pm.png Transit has emerged as a key issue in the furious competition between municipalities to land Amazon’s second headquarters. With the company placing a premium on access to rail and bus networks, cities like Chicago put transit front and center in their applications. “ If you look at their proposal, Amazon's, and you look at what they're looking for: talent, transportation, training, technology,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared as the city its unveiled its formal bid last September. “Who [else] will have a transportation system, both public and aviation, that will give them the capacity to get everywhere in the world and get their workers to work conveniently?” Lost in the discussion to lure Amazon to Chicago are the deep inequities within the city’s existing transit system, fault lines that threaten to leave entire neighborhoods behind should Amazon choose Chicago for its second home base. If overlooking those...

GOP Tax Victory Puts Drinking Water at Risk

With cities already struggling to comply with federal drinking water standards, the GOP tax legislation eliminates a critical tool for financing improvements.  

In the landmark tax reform overhaul, congressional Republicans axed a critical financing tool that cities and towns have used to upgrade aging drinking water infrastructure: advance refunding bonds. These bonds allowed municipalities to refinance outstanding debt at lower interest rates. The loss of this tool—combined with historically low levels of federal enforcement and support for basic drinking water standards—could deepen the nation’s ongoing lead contamination crisis by making it harder for local governments to fund much-needed infrastructure improvements that would curb lead contaminants in drinking water. National water industry groups, including the American Water Works Association, expressed alarm about the potential impacts in a November letter to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. The groups noted that advance refunding allowed states and local governments to refinance more than 900 municipal bonds for water infrastructure projects, saving $1.36...

GOP Tax Plan Pulls the Plug on Renewable Energy

Both versions of the GOP tax plan could deal a devastating blow to solar and wind production. 

(Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)
The GOP tax reform plan barreling toward a vote in the Senate could deal a devastating blow to the renewable energy industry. Unlike the more draconian House version, the Senate bill does not slash renewable tax credits directly, but it does impose steep taxes on the companies that help finance renewable development. Leaders in the wind and solar sector warn that such hikes would undercut the industry’s most important financing tools. “Almost overnight, you would see a devastating reduction in wind and solar energy investment and development,” Gregory Wetstone, the head of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in a statement . When Senate Republicans released their tax plan two weeks ago, renewable advocates were initially relieved. The House bill, released in early November, proposed cutting the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewables by a third, eliminating the Investment Tax Credit for solar production, and repealing the electric vehicle purchase...

Nebraska Approves Keystone XL Pipeline, But Fight Continues

The state’s decision is the pipeline’s last regulatory hurdle. Next stop: the courts.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission voted to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, thereby clearing the project’s last regulatory hurdle. The decision comes just days after an existing segment of the Keystone pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in Marshall County, South Dakota. Although former President Obama shelved Keystone XL following a massive public outcry in November 2015, President Trump has since revived it, throwing a critical environmental victory into serious doubt. But even as state regulators green-light the pipeline, Keystone’s future remains far from certain. In approving the project, the commission altered its route to avoid Nebraska’s vulnerable Sandhills region. The decision could set TransCanada’s plans back months, or even years, as it must now secure easements with a new set of Nebraska landowners. The company also faces a tough legal challenge in federal court. Within days of the pipeline’s federal...