Sam Ross-Brown

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

Recent Articles

Michigan Energy Policy Overhaul Pits Power Companies Against Solar Advocates

A proposal, pushed by the state's utility companies, to reduce payments to solar consumers could scare off people who are considering investing in solar energy.

(Photo: AP/David Eggert)
The battle between Michigan electric utility companies and renewable-energy advocates over a proposed state energy policy overhaul could deal a severe blow to the state’s small but growing solar-power sector. The regulatory overhaul, which mirrors changes being considered in states nationwide, would slash payments for solar consumers who sell excess energy back to utility companies while also significantly weakening the state’s clean-energy mandates. With federal energy policymaking at a standstill, this controversy once again puts Michigan at the center of the nationwide debate over state-level climate policy. Michigan’s two largest electrical utilities have pushed for these changes in a new comprehensive energy bill. DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have together spent more than $3 million over the past year on a massive media and lobbying campaign featuring media buys, campaign contributions to state lawmakers, and lobbying by industry representatives in Lansing...

Beyond Flint: How Local Governments Ignore Federal Water Standards

Underfunded and under attack, the EPA has failed to enforce water testing and treatment rules. 

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
The many lawsuits and federal probes triggered by the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, allege that city and state officials failed to meet federal water testing and treatment standards. But Flint is hardly the only American city with water testing problems. Although the 40-year-old Safe Drinking Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate public drinking water, agency enforcement has been lax. Underfunded and under pressure from GOP critics and utility industry lobbyists, the EPA has failed to put its latest water testing and treatment standards into enforceable regulations. As a result, cities and states have been left largely to police themselves, and many have ignored federal guidelines while the EPA looked the other way. Local compliance and EPA oversight are so slack, in fact, that by some estimates nearly 100 million Americans in cities all over the country could be drinking unsafe water. “Do I expect more Flints to happen? I think it...

Will Washington Pass Nation's First State-Level Carbon Tax?

After years of gridlock on climate action, Washington state could soon pioneer the nation's first tax on greenhouse gas emissions. 

Steve Bloom/The Olympian via AP
With Congress unable to pass meaningful regulations on climate, Washington state may be poised to approve the nation’s first-ever carbon tax, in what environmental advocates say could become a national model. But first, advocates will have to get past a formidable obstacle: the fossil-fuel industry. In mid-January after a nine-month signature-gathering campaign, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman sent state lawmakers a ballot initiative that would attach a $15-per-ton tax on carbon emissions (which adds up to about 25 cents on a gallon of gas). The levy would gradually rise over the next 40 years. If the measure, dubbed Initiative 732, becomes law, Washington state would join California and a handful of Northeastern states as a national leader in carving out a path to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. Many climate scientists , economists , and world leaders agree that pricing carbon is a critical step to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But to get it on the books,...

With Much of Climate Policy in State Hands, Will Commitments Be Enforced?

A pair of legal battles will help determine how far states will go to implement their climate laws. 

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Less than a month after the Paris negotiations concluded with pledges by virtually every nation to reduce their greenhouse gases, a pair of lawsuits in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will test whether those states’ commitments to scale back their emissions are legally enforceable. The suits, brought by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and other environmental groups, will help determine whether state laws that set greenhouse gas reduction targets can be used to compel those states to cut emissions and put the brakes on new fossil-fuel infrastructure. With Congress unable to pass meaningful reforms, state-level policy has become a critical piece of U.S. action on climate change. Just how far states will go to implement and enforce meaningful change, however, remains an open question. “This is a bellwether case,” says CLF President Bradley Campbell. “If laws like these are not implemented and enforced, we don’t stand a chance of meeting the very...

Best of the Prospect 2015

The American Prospect
For progressives, 2015 was a year of tumultuous debates over issues ranging from wage inequity to mass incarceration, campus sexual assault to global warming. Here at The American Prospect , our writers weighed in every step of the way. For our winter issue, Nancy Gertner asked whether renewed attention to campus sexual assaults can be reconciled with the imperative for due process. In the spring, the Prospect ’s 25th anniversary issue took on the 1 percent’s towering concentration of wealth and power, which has begun to threaten the foundation of our democratic experiment. In the summer, Justin Miller reported on a more encouraging trend—the small but burgeoning union movement among college and university adjuncts demanding equal pay from American higher ed. And in the fall, Peter Dreier and Aditi Sen explored how the same Wall Street speculators behind the mortgage crisis are at it again, securitizing rental properties in a frighteningly familiar way. We also had...