A Welcome Victory in the D.C. Circuit
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 dull reading, unless you happen to have been deeply involved in the case. As I thought about it, however, I decided that the undramatic features of the case – the ways in which it was pretty routine – were themselves worth writing about. The opinion shows what it looks like when smart, capable judges apply themselves to complex technical issues. It's not glamorous, but it's crucial to the successful workings of government.
Let me begin right at the top of page 1. Immediately under the name of the court is a line that reads:
"Argued October 3, 2018 Decided September 13, 2019."
So, almost a year went by between the oral argument and the court's decision. That's a fairly average delay for this kind of case. What wasn't average was the delay between issuance of the rule (October 26, 2016) and the oral argument. It doesn't take that long for lawyers to
Overshoot: Trump's Deregulatory Zeal Goes Beyond Even Where Industry Asks Him to Go
by Amy Sinden | September 16, 2019
Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. The Trump EPA last month proposed a new plan to remove oil and gas developers’ responsibility for detecting and fixing methane leaks in their wells, pipelines and storage operations. This proposal to axe the Obama-era methane rule is notable for two reasons. First, it is a huge step backward in the race to stabilize the climate, just at the moment scientists warn we need to move forward
Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Next President
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
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
President Trump's Call for 'Red Flag' Laws Is a Hypocritical Distraction
In response to this month's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump urged legislators to enact "red flag" laws to prevent future tragedies. Red flag laws allow police or family members to seek court orders (sometimes called "extreme risk protection orders") that temporarily remove firearms from individuals who present a danger to themselves or others. But do these laws and regulations distract from the larger point about gun violence and mass shootings in the United
Can Hip Hop Save Rulemaking?
Originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. Public participation is one of the cornerstones of U.S. administrative law, and perhaps nothing better exemplifies its value than the notice-and-comment rulemaking process through which stakeholders can provide input on a proposed rule. Yet there remains an inherent tension in the democratic potential of this process. In reviewing final rules, courts demand that agencies demonstrate that those rules are responsive to any substantive comments they receive. But courts generally limit this
Get Ready for Phase 2 of the Deregulation Wars
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 Cost-Benefit Boomerang
This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect. Everyone in communications knows how to bury a news story: release it late on a Friday. So it was with the White House’s annual report on federal regulations, released months behind schedule on a Friday in February. As it has for many years, the report pegged the benefits of federal regulation in the hundreds of billions of dollars, swamping the calculated costs of compliance by at least 2 to 1 and
Cost-Benefit Analysis According to the Trump Administration
Originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. As the United States slogs through year three of a deregulatory implosion, one truth has become clear: As practiced by the Trump administration, cost-benefit analysis has become a perversion of a neutral approach to policymaking. To be forthright, I was never a fan of the number crunching. I thought it created the false impression that numerical estimates were precise, drastically understated benefits, buried controversial value judgments behind barricades of formulas, and
The Coming Decline of Anti-Regulatory Conservatism
Originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. When it comes to the need for federal regulation, the American political system is currently deeply divided along ideological and partisan lines. This division has a number of causes, but a good part of the division can unquestionably be attributed to what Professor Thomas McGarity has referred to as the anti-regulatory "idea infrastructure" and the "influence infrastructure" constructed by conservatives in the early 1970s and continued thereafter—ideas intended to block and
Justice Stevens and the Rule of (Environmental) Law
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?
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
Kisor v. Wilkie: A Reprieve for Embattled Administrative State?
Originally published by The George Washington Law Review. Reprinted with permission. Imagine a world in which administrative agencies whose actions are challenged in court are afforded little respect and even less deference from reviewing courts. Imagine further that congressional efforts to vest authority in these agencies to act as guardians of public health and safety, environmental integrity, consumer interests, and economic security are viewed as alarming threats to liberty and to the very foundations of the separation of governmental authority
The Witching Auer
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
Op-Ed Shines Light on Trump EPA's Efforts to Re-Rig Cost-Benefit Analysis for Polluters
Last night, CPR Member Scholar Amy Sinden and I published an op-ed in The Hill explaining the dangers of a new rulemaking recently launched by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and former air office Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum. Through this rulemaking, Wheeler and Wehrum – both former industry lobbyists – will kick off the EPA's agency-wide effort to overhaul how it conducts cost-benefit analysis for its pending rules to ensure that this methodology remains heavily biased in favor
The Census Case and the Delegation Issue
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
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
Opinion Analysis: Virginia's Moratorium on Uranium Mining Is Not Pre-empted, but the Role of Legislative Purpose Remains Open for Debate
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). The Supreme Court has concluded that Virginia's decades-old moratorium on uranium mining is not pre-empted by the Atomic Energy Act. But there is no clear answer to the question that pervaded the briefing and oral argument: What is the proper role for state legislative purpose in a pre-emption analysis? Monday's judgment was accompanied by three opinions: a lead opinion written by
When it comes to health, safety and the environment, executive branch enforcement of the law has become yet another arena to fight and re-fight policy battles presumably settled in Congress. In particular, regulated entities, including companies that pollute or make potentially dangerous products, spend millions working to block, delay, and unravel such protections.
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