Sam Ross-Brown

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

Recent Articles

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

(Sipa via AP Images)
(Sipa via AP Images) A CTA train in Chicago screen_shot_2017-07-19_at_4.28.52_pm.png T ransit 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...

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.  

Justek16/Shutterstock I n 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...

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)
(Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP) A wind farm near Waverly, Kansas T he 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...

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)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate during rush hour in Omaha, Nebraska, on November 1, 2017. O n 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...

Scott Pruitt’s Dirty War on Clean Water

Pruitt’s aggressive effort to repeal the Clean Water Rule is the latest battle in the Trumpian attack on environmental regulations, democratic norms, and the rule of law.

(Sipa USA via AP)
(Sipa via AP Images) Scott Pruitt on June 2, 2017 T his week, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case that will determine how far the federal government can go in safeguarding American waterways. At issue are challenges to the Clean Water Rule that began working its way up to the high court two years ago. Yet no matter what the Court decides, the Clean Water Rule’s days are almost certainly numbered as the Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a plan to kill the rule outright this fall. The agency has come under fire from scientists, environmental advocates, and state officials for moves related to its repeal crusade, including cutting back on public input, an ominous sign that flies in the face of past EPA practice. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, has a personal stake in this battle royale: He helped lead the multi-state legal assault against the rule during his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general, which culminated in National Association of Manufacturers v...