CPR Archive for Daniel Farber

Low-Hanging Fruit

by Daniel Farber | November 25, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The idea of low-hanging fruit is ubiquitous in environmental policy – sometimes in the form of a simple metaphor, other times expressed in more sophisticated terms as an assumption of rising marginal costs of pollution reduction. It's an arresting metaphor, and one that can often be illuminating. But like many powerful metaphors, it can also mislead us badly.

The idea behind the metaphor can be expressed in various ways, which can be equally arresting for those attuned to them. The same idea can be incorporated into graphs showing the cost of additional pollution reductions rapidly rising as the level of removal increases. If you google something like "marginal costs pollution reduction," graphs like that will pop up immediately along with verbal statements of the same concept. Combined with the assumption that the harm done by a unit of pollution is constant, it leads to the conclusion that regulators should not attempt to eliminate pollution. Rather, they should try to find the optimal amount of pollution where the cost of cutting a unit of pollution just balances the cost. Or in terms of the simpler rendition, you should stop picking fruit at the point where the effort of picking the harder-to-reach fruit is getting higher than the benefit.

Low-hanging fruit provides an effective image even for those who have never picked a piece of fruit from a tree. ...

A Dozen Strategies for the Struggle With Big Oil

by Daniel Farber | October 28, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reposted by permission. The oil industry is enormous – something like 2 to 3 percent of global GDP. Individuals firms like ExxonMobil earn tens of billions of dollars each quarter. Controlling climate change will mean drastic curtailment in the coming decades of the industry’s major products. There’s no way that the industry will accept this lying down, and it’s a formidable opponent. To be successful, we will need a combination of strategies, aside from the rightness ...

2020 in the Courts: A Preview

by Daniel Farber | October 22, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. There are going to be some significant environmental cases over the next year. In addition, some important new cases will be filed now or in the near future, which may produce some interesting rulings. It will probably take more than a year, however, for some of the big new cases down the turnpike to result in their first level of judicial opinions, let alone reach completion. The Supreme Court The Court agreed last spring to ...

Aging Dams, Forgotten Perils

by Daniel Farber | October 11, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Critical U.S. infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is weak, and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for action, and climate change will only make the problem worse, but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has become a familiar story. Take dams, for instance. A year ago, I noted that the federal government regulates the safety of only a small proportion ...

A Welcome Victory in the D.C. Circuit

by Daniel Farber | September 17, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Last Friday, the D.C. Circuit decided Wisconsin v. EPA. The federal appeals court rejected industry attacks on a regulation dealing with interstate air pollution but accepted an argument by environmental groups that the regulation was too weak. Last week also featured depressing examples of the drumbeat of Trump administration rollbacks, so it was especially nice to have some good news. I hesitated about whether to write something about the case because the opinion makes for ...

Trump's Legal Challenges to the California Car Deal

by Daniel Farber | September 09, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Prompting rage by President Trump, California and several carmakers entered into a voluntary agreement on carbon emissions from new cars that blew past the administration's efforts to repeal existing federal requirements. Last week, the Trump administration slapped back at California. Although there's been a lot of editorializing about that response, I've seen very little about the legal dimensions of the administration's actions. I'd like to shed a little bit of light on those. The administration ...

Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Next President

by Daniel Farber | September 06, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Under executive orders dating back to President Ronald Reagan, regulatory agencies like EPA are supposed to follow cost-benefit analysis when making decisions. Under the Trump administration, however, cost-benefit analysis has barely even served as window-dressing for its deregulatory actions. It has launched a series of efforts to prevent full counting of regulatory benefits, as well as committing any number of sins against economic principles, as I detailed in a post in January. Essentially, the administration ...

Clearing the Air

by Daniel Farber | August 26, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. On Friday, the D.C. Circuit decided Murray Energy v. EPA. The court upheld EPA's health-based 2015 air quality standards for ozone against challenges from industry (rules too strong) and environmental groups (rules too weak). However, it rejected a grandfather clause that prevented the new standards from applying to plants whose permit applications were in-process when the standards were issued. It also required EPA to tighten up the "secondary standards" for ozone, which are intended to ...

A Letter to My Fellow Boomers about Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | August 15, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Polls show that a great many members of our generation oppose taking action against climate change. I want to try to explain to that group why you should rethink your views. Let me start by explaining why climate action would benefit you yourself and then widen the focus to include your grandchildren and their kids. Efforts to cut climate change right now aren't likely to have a big effect on climate in the next decade ...

Get Ready for Phase 2 of the Deregulation Wars

by Daniel Farber | August 05, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The first phase of Trump's regulatory rollbacks has been directed against Obama's climate change regulations. Those deregulatory actions will be finalized soon. What happens next will be in the hands of the courts. But the Trump EPA is now beginning a new phase in its attack on environmental regulation. Having tried to eliminate climate regulation, its next move will be an attack on basic protections against air pollution. The Clean Air Act, the federal air ...

The Flight of the Bumblebee

by Daniel Farber | July 30, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Last Friday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals halted efforts to build a natural gas pipeline because the Trump administration had done such a lousy job of showing its compliance with the Endangered Species Act. This was one of the administration's many losses in court. The case involved a perfect example of "arbitrary and capricious" decision making, to use the legal terminology. In simpler terms, the government's explanation for its decision was as full of ...

ACE or Joker? Trump's Self-Defeating Climate Rule

by Daniel Farber | July 25, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. To hear President Trump talk, the point of deregulation is to reduce the burden of regulation on industry. But weirdly enough, that doesn't turn out to be true of Trump's effort to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replace it with his own Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. Both rules regulate carbon emissions from power plants (though Trump's rule covers only coal plants). According to his own EPA, however, the Trump administration's approach will ...

Justice Stevens and the Rule of (Environmental) Law

by Daniel Farber | July 18, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet There's already been a lot written in the aftermath of Justice Stevens's death, including Ann Carlson's excellent Legal Planet post earlier this week. I'd like to add something about an aspect of his jurisprudence that had great relevance to environmental law: his belief in the rule of law, and specifically, in the duty of both the judiciary and the executive branch to respect and implement congressional mandates. This stance was evident in Justice Stevens's decision ...

Where's the Beef?

by Daniel Farber | July 15, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet Mississippi recently passed a law that has the effect of banning terms like "veggie burger." It's easy to imagine other states passing similar laws. From an environmental view, that's problematic, because beef in particular is connected with much higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant products. It's not just the methane from cow-burps, it's also all the carbon emissions connected with growing corn to feed the cattle. But in addition to its environmental drawbacks, the Mississippi ...

The Witching Auer

by Daniel Farber | July 08, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Kisor v. Wilkie was eagerly awaited by administrative law experts. It is one skirmish in the ongoing war over deference to agencies. In this case, the issue was whether to overrule the Auer doctrine, which requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of its own regulations. This doctrine, like its big brother, the Chevron doctrine, has become a target for conservative scholars and judges. The Auer doctrine has ...

The Census Case and the Delegation Issue

by Daniel Farber | July 01, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. In a recent decision, four of the conservative Supreme Court Justices indicated a desire to limit the amount of discretion that Congress can give administrative agencies. If taken literally, some of the language they used would hobble the government by restricting agencies like EPA to "filling in the details" or making purely factual determinations. Some observers have feared that the conservatives were on the verge of dismantling modern administrative law. As I indicated in a ...

Justice Gorsuch versus the Administrative State

by Daniel Farber | June 27, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Gundy v. United States was a case involving a fairly obscure statute regulating sex offenders, but some have seen it as a harbinger of the destruction of the modern administrative state. In a 4-1-3 split, the Court turned away a constitutional challenge based on a claim that Congress had delegated too much authority to the executive branch. But there were ominous signs that at least four Justices are willing to change the ground rules in ...

Pollution Bursts and Public Health

by Daniel Farber | June 13, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. When a facility installs and operates the required pollution control equipment, we normally think of the pollution problem as solved. But there still may be bursts of pollution associated with start-up, shut-down, accidents, or external events. A recent study of pollution in Texas shows that these events have substantial health impacts, involving significant deaths and overall costs of about a quarter billion dollars a year in that state. Ironically, the study comes out at the ...

Also from Daniel Farber

Daniel A. Farber is the Sho Sato Professor of Law and Director of the California Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Farber | Nov 25, 2019 | Regulatory Policy

2020 in the Courts: A Preview

Farber | Oct 22, 2019 | Environmental Policy

Aging Dams, Forgotten Perils

Farber | Oct 11, 2019 | Good Government

A Welcome Victory in the D.C. Circuit

Farber | Sep 17, 2019 | Environmental Policy

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