Seven Bright Spots of 2018

by Daniel Farber

December 31, 2018

A version of this post was originally published on Legal Planet.

Yes, it was a grim year in many ways. But there actually were some bright spots. Here are just the high points.

  1. Scott Pruitt. Pruitt resigned under fire. While his successor may be more successful in some ways, the fact remains that Pruitt was a disgrace. We're better off without him. Trump was apparently unfazed by his incompetence and aversion to hard work. But the succession of scandals and investigations – about personal travel at government expense, extravagance, the top-secret phone booth in his office, and so on and so on – eventually got to be too much of a distraction that threatened to undermine Trump's own monopoly on the spotlight.
  2. Ryan Zinke. Yet another bad apple who was forced out. His acting replacement is equally wrong-headed and more competent but has multiple conflicts of interest that require him to recuse himself from many disputes. Which is probably a good thing.
  3. Judicial rulings. The Trump administration continued to have a terrible record in court on environmental issues. According to Brookings, the administration's record is now one in eighteen. Apart from losing litigation over its efforts to postpone Obama-era rules without obeying the proper procedures, the administration also lost a couple of efforts to defend Obama-era efforts, resulting in mandates that it take regulatory action.
  4. States. As I blogged previously, some states have responded to Trump by redoubling their commitments to addressing climate change. California and New York led the list, but they're far from the only ones. Just this month, nine Northeastern states and the District of Columbia agreed to create a cap-and-trade system for the transportation sector, and D.C. also created a 100 percent renewable mandate for 2032.
  5. Regulations. Some Trump administration proposals have been derailed. That includes Rick Perry's efforts to justify subsidies for coal plants, either based on their supposed contribution to grid resiliency or as needed for national security. The administration seems to be powerless to halt the steady stream of coal power plant closures by utilities eager to shed uneconomic plants and modernize their operations.
  6. 2018 elections. The Democrats retook the House and picked up seven governorships. Winning the House will allow genuine oversight of the administration for the first time, and governors can lead the charge on renewables.
  7. The private sector. Like states, leading corporations from Apple to Wal-Mart are continuing to pursue renewable energy goals. And Ford and GM parted company with the administration on all or part of the rollback of CAFE full efficiency standards. Utilities in many states, red as well as blue, are investing enormous sums to modernize their grids in order to prepare for the new regime of solar and wind power. Meanwhile, basic economics is continuing to squeeze out coal-fired power plants, and renewables are becoming competitive even with natural gas.

Let's hope for more good news in 2019.

Be the first to comment on this entry.
We ask for your email address so that we may follow up with you, ask you to clarify your comment in some way, or perhaps alert you to someone else's response. Only the name you supply and your comment will be displayed on the site to the public. Our blog is a forum for the exchange of ideas, and we hope to foster intelligent, interesting and respectful discussion. We do not apply an ideological screen, however, we reserve the right to remove blog posts we deem inappropriate for any reason, but particularly for language that we deem to be in the nature of a personal attack or otherwise offensive. If we remove a comment you've posted, and you want to know why, ask us ( and we will tell you. If you see a post you regard as offensive, please let us know.

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.

2019 in Renewable Energy

Farber | Dec 09, 2019 | Energy

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
Recommended Resources:

The Center for Progressive Reform

2021 L St NW, #101-330
Washington, DC. 20036

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015