A Defeat on Offshore Drilling Extends the Trump Administration's Losing Streak in Court

by Alejandro Camacho | April 11, 2019

Originally published by The Conversation.

The Trump administration's push to boost fossil fuel extraction has received a major setback. On March 29, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled invalid Trump's order lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the the Arctic Ocean and along parts of the North Atlantic coast. Gleason held that the relevant law – the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – authorizes presidents to withdraw offshore lands from use for energy development, but not to reverse such decisions by past administrations.

If this ruling is upheld on appeal, it would bolster lawsuits contesting another controversial action by President Trump: Removing some 2 million acres from the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, which were created by Presidents Obama and Clinton respectively under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

As scholars of environmental and natural resources law, we believe that in both instances, the Trump administration has misconstrued statutes as affording it powers that Congress never gave to presidents.

Conserving underwater resources

Congress passed the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to establish U.S. jurisdiction over this region, which begins three miles offshore and extends for several hundred nautical miles. The law recognizes that the outer continental shelf "is a vital national resource reserve … which should be made ...

Trump on the Environment: A Study in Falsehood

by Daniel Farber | March 29, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The Washington Post has a list of false statements by Trump, which turns out to be searchable by topic. They've found, "In the first eight months of his presidency, President Trump made 1,137 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day." As of March 17, he was up to 9,179 false statements. There were 200 false statements about the environment – that's about one every four days, which compares favorably to the number ...

Declaring a Climate Change Emergency: A Citizen's Guide

by Daniel Farber | March 14, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The possibility of declaring a national emergency to address climate change will probably remain under discussion for the next couple of years, particularly if the courts uphold Trump's "wall" emergency. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to pull together the series of blog posts I've written on the subject. I want to emphasize three key points at the beginning: Declaring a climate emergency should be off the table if the Supreme Court rules ...

The Potential Benefits of Declaring a Climate Emergency

by Daniel Farber | March 04, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. I have a confession: When I started thinking about the possibility of a climate emergency declaration, it was mostly as a counterpoint to Trump's possible (now certain) declaration of an immigration emergency. As I've thought about it, however, it seems to me that there are enough potential benefits to make the idea worth serious consideration. A relatively restrained use of emergency powers could still have some real payoff. In general, I'm not in favor of expanding ...

National Security, Climate Change, and Emergency Declarations

by Daniel Farber | February 18, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Trump finally pulled the trigger and declared a national emergency so he can build his wall. But if illegal border crossings are a national emergency, then there's a strong case for viewing climate change in similar terms. That point has been made by observers ranging from Marco Rubio to Legal Planet's own Jonathan Zasloff in a post last week. I agree, but I want to dig deeper because it's such an important point. In order to ...

Flipping the Conservative Agenda

by Daniel Farber | January 31, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Conservatives, with full support from Donald Trump, have come up with a menu of ways to weaken the regulatory state. In honor of National Backward Day – that's an actual thing, in case you're wondering, and it's today – let's think about reversing those ideas. In other words, let's try to come up with similar mechanisms to strengthen protections for public health and the environment instead of weakening protections. It's an interesting experiment, if nothing ...

Using Emergency Powers to Fight Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | January 14, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Republicans are apparently worried that if Trump could use emergency powers by declaring border security a national emergency, the next president could do the same thing for climate change. There's no doubt that this would be far more legitimate than Trump's wall effort. Border crossings are much lower than they were ten years ago; he has said in the recent past that his prior efforts have vastly improved border security. In contrast, the Pentagon has classified ...

How Trump Officials Abuse Cost-Benefit Analysis to Attack Regulations

by Daniel Farber | January 09, 2019
This op-ed was orignally published in the Washington Monthly. In December of 2017, Donald Trump gathered the press for a variation on a familiar activity from his real estate mogul days. Stretched between a tower of paper taller than himself, representing all current federal regulations, and a small stack labeled "1960," was a thick piece of red ribbon – red tape, if you will. The president promised that "we're going to get back below that 1960s level." With his daughter ...

Two Years and Counting: Looking Forward

by Daniel Farber | December 10, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In terms of regulatory policy, the second half of Trump's term is shaping up to look a lot like Obama's final two years in office. Congress won't be doing much to advance Trump's environment and energy agenda, as was the case with Obama. So, like Obama, Trump's focus will be on administrative action, particularly regulatory initiatives (or deregulatory ones, in Trump's case). The big question is how these efforts will fare in court. I want to ...

Two Years and Counting: A Historical Perspective

by Daniel Farber | December 06, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. This is the second of three posts assessing the first two years of the Trump administration. You can read the first post here. We all seem to be subscribed to the "All Trump News, All the Time" newsfeed. It may be helpful to step back a bit and compare Trump with his last Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. How do the two stack up? Bush and Trump were very different in character and style, but their ...

Two Years and Counting: Trump at Mid-Term

by Daniel Farber | December 03, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In September 2017 – that seems so long ago! – Eric Biber and I released a report assessing the state of play in environmental issues 200 days into the Trump administration, based on an earlier series of blog posts. As we end Trump's second year, it's time to bring that assessment up to date. This is the first of three posts examining what Trump has done (and hasn't done) in terms of environment and energy. For ...

Taming White House Review of Federal Agency Regulations

by Lisa Heinzerling | October 11, 2018
This post was originally published as part of a symposium on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission. Presidents since Ronald Reagan have, by executive order, required agencies to submit significant regulatory actions to the White House for review. Academic and public interest observers have variously criticized this review as slow, opaque, chaotic, lawless, and power-grabbing. Yet every president in the intervening years has not only embraced but also deepened the control of the White House ...

Trump to America's Most Vulnerable Communities: You're on Your Own

by James Goodwin | September 28, 2017
UPDATE: President Trump is no longer scheduled to speak on deregulation on October 2, but the planned deregulatory "summit" with various cabinet-level agencies is still slated to occur. Government-sanctioned cruelty makes for shocking images, as the events of the past few weeks demonstrate. People in wheelchairs forcibly dragged from congressional hearing rooms for protesting legislative attempts to strip them of access to affordable health care. The uncertainty on the faces of Puerto Rican parents as they survey the damage to ...

New Analysis Exposes the Trump Administration's Rulemaking Delays

by Rena Steinzor | July 19, 2017
Early in the Trump administration, news about delayed and "disappeared" rules emerged in several media outlets. Many of these delays were driven by a memo issued by Trump White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on January 20, 2017, which "froze" the implementation of rules until March 21, 2017, so that a representative of the administration could review them. Freezing rules for a limited amount of time is standard practice for newly inaugurated presidents. But the White House and agency ...

Chamber's Brief Lays Bare Crackpot Theory at Heart of Two-for-One Order

by Amy Sinden | June 15, 2017
I don't know what executive order the Chamber of Commerce is defending in the amicus brief it filed Monday in Public Citizen v. Trump. But it doesn't appear to be the one at issue in that lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that Trump's "one-in, two-out" executive order is unconstitutional. That's the order he issued in January requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every one they issue. It requires agencies to make sure that the costs imposed by any new regulation ...

CPR Statements: Trump Picks for EPA, Interior, Energy Chart the Wrong Course for Our Health, Our Environment, and Our Energy Policies

by Brian Gumm | December 13, 2016
President-Elect Donald Trump has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as his Interior Secretary, and former Texas governor Rick Perry as his Energy Secretary. The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has released statements on the picks. Robert Glicksman, CPR Board Member, on Department of the Interior Secretary nominee Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT):  Donald Trump's selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as Secretary of the Interior does nothing to ...

An Uncertain Anniversary

by Joseph Tomain | December 12, 2016
This blog post is based on the Introduction to my forthcoming book, Clean Power Politics: The Democratization of Energy (Cambridge University Press, 2017). One year ago, 195 nations met in Paris and signed what has been hailed as an historic climate agreement.[1] To date, 116 parties have ratified the convention, and it went into force on November 4 of this year.[2] President Obama acknowledged the talks as a "turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would ...

Racism, Cost-Benefit Analysis, and Trump Advisor Steve Bannon

by James Goodwin | November 29, 2016
What does Steve Bannon – who, despite his well-documented racism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny, was appointed as president-elect Trump's senior counselor and White House strategist – have to do with a rarified and wonky policy exercise such as regulatory cost-benefit analysis? Unfortunately, a lot, as it turns out.  From a serious policy perspective, the Trump administration's approach to governance remains terra incognita, and this is especially the case with its approach to implementing laws through regulations. So far, Trump has signaled ...
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