Michigan v. EPA: Still Hope for the Mercury Rule

by Robert Verchick | June 29, 2015

Today the Supreme Court blocked a key effort by the Obama administration to keep unsafe levels of mercury and other toxins from spilling into our air. The ruling, issued in Michigan vs. EPA, is a loss for the EPA and public health advocates. But the damage can be contained and will hopefully not prevent the agency from re-issuing its so-called Mercury Rule under a rationale that can satisfy the Court’s newly divined decision-making standards.

At issue was whether the Clean Air Act required the EPA to consider costs to industry when it made the decision to regulate mercury, a known neurotoxin. Because the Act does not mention cost considerations at this early stage of rulemaking, the EPA reasoned such review was unnecessary. At any rate, the EPA had explicitly considered costs in the second stage of analysis when it chose the actual numeric pollution limit. And what it found was that the benefits of the Mercury Rule would exceed the costs by tens of billions of dollars.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia found that the EPA’s failure to consider costs in the early stage of the rule doomed the whole enterprise. The EPA’s decision-making process, according to the Court, did not meet the Act’s requirement of considering all “appropriate and necessary” information.

That’s disappointing, but the loss could have been much worse. In the briefing, opponents of the mercury rule argued to ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Reducing Climate Disrupting Emissions from Power Plants

by James Goodwin | November 10, 2014
Last week brought a string of bad news as far as global climate disruption goes.  The bummer parade began Sunday with the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Synthesis report, which painted the direst picture yet of the looming global climate disruption threat, finding that “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people ...

CPR's Verchick to Testify before California's Little Hoover Commission

by Matthew Freeman | August 21, 2013
Update: Verchick's testimony is here. On Thursday, August 22, CPR Member Scholar Robert R.M. Verchick will testify before California's "Little Hoover Commission" about land-use planning to address the threat of climate change. The Commission is conducting a study of climate-change-adaptation efforts in the state, and Verchick, a professor at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and a former EPA official, will bring his expertise in environmental regulation, climate change adaptation and disaster law to the table. We'll post his testimony to ...

CPR's Heinzerling Reacts to President's Climate Change Speech

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 25, 2013
At a speech this afternoon at Georgetown University, President Obama outlined a series of aggressive steps aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing the nation to adapt to the now unavoidable effects of climate change. Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling issued the following reaction: The President’s speech offered exactly what many of us have been waiting to hear from him: A solid commitment to use the tools available to the EPA to finally get the federal ...

CPR Scholar Frank Ackerman on Secret Climate Cost Calculations: the Sequel

by Frank Ackerman | June 10, 2013
Three years later, it was time for a new episode.  Back in 2010, Congress listened to some climate-denial rants, counted votes, and decided to do absolutely nothing about climate change; this year on Capitol Hill, the magic continues. Also in 2010, the Obama administration released an estimate of “the social cost of carbon”` (SCC) – that is, the value of the damages done by emission of one more ton of carbon dioxide. Calculated by an anonymous task force that held ...

Blistering Comments on State's Draft Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement

by Sandra Zellmer | April 23, 2013
Monday was the deadline for public comment on the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Mine, which I submitted with the support of two of my University of Nebraska colleagues, are here. The State Department had initially announced that it would take the unusual path of refusing to make all of the comments available to the public absent a Freedom of Information Act request, but after a storm of criticism, the Department has reversed ...

Executive Review of Regulation in Obama's Second Term

by Matthew Freeman | January 28, 2013
CPR Member Scholar David Driesen of Syracuse University has an op-ed in the January 28 Syracuse Post-Standard making the case that the President should reinvigorate his regulatory agenda, in part by diminishing the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' power to stifle regulations. He puts the argument in the context of the pressing need for action on climate change, writing: Obama should put an end to obstructionist OIRA review in light of the urgency of climate disruption and the failures this review ...

The Age of Greed: Science Drowned by Politics

by Rena Steinzor | January 25, 2012
Last week, a reporter asked me, “How’s science doing these days?,” “Science” is an impossibly big category, of course, but the answer was easy: “Badly,” I said. Exhibit number one is climate change. The frightening truth is that no fewer than 84 percent of scientists in this country surveyed by Pew say that the earth is warming because of human activity; 70 percent describe the problem as “very serious.” Although much is made of the supposed “dissenters” on the issue, no ...

U.S. House Targets Early Government Efforts to Help Citizens Prepare for and Cope With Effects of Climate Change

by Robert Verchick | June 22, 2011
Imagine you are building a beach house somewhere on the Gulf Coast and that I had some information about future high tides that would help you build a smarter structure, avoid flood damage, and save money in the long-run. Would you want that information? Not if you follow the reasoning of Representatives Steve Scalise of Louisiana or John Carter of Texas. Both are concerned about the Obama administration’s recent efforts to make federal programs stronger and more resilient in the ...

Supreme Court Ruling in The American Electric Power Case

by Daniel Farber | June 20, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The Supreme Court decided the AEP case.  The jurisdictional issues (standing and the political question doctrine) got punted.  The Court said that the lower court rulings were affirmed by an equally divided court.  So far as I know, this is the first time that the Court has ever done that and then proceeded to a ruling on the merits.  (It would seem more appropriate to dismiss cert. as improvidently granted rather than issue an opinion on ...

Climate Change Meets the Little Mermaid

by Robert Verchick | June 12, 2011
Copenhagen—Denmark’s famed "Little Harbor Lady," or in English, "Little Mermaid," has had her share of antics and perils. She’s been photographed by millions in Copenhagen’s harbor, carted off and shown at the 2010 World Fair in Shanghai, beheaded (several times), dynamited, splashed with pink paint, and enveloped in a Burqua. An environmental nerd for all occasions, I look at her longing face and wonder, How long before the rising sea swallows her up? Bolted to that rock in the sea, ...

New CPR Report Proposes Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation in the Puget Sound

by Yee Huang | June 10, 2011
The scope of climate change impacts is expected to be extraordinary, touching every ecosystem on the planet and affecting human interactions with the natural and built environment. From increased surface and water temperatures to sea level rise and more frequent extreme weather events, climate change promises vast and profound alterations to our world. Indeed, scientists predict continued climate change impacts regardless of any present or future mitigation efforts due to the long-lived nature of greenhouse gases emitted over the last century.  The ...

Notes from the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change

by Robert Verchick | June 05, 2011
Bonn--At a climate conference in Germany, with lager in hand, I was prepared to ponder nearly any environmental insult or failure. But rat pee? Really?  The urine of rats, as it turns out, is known to transmit the leptospirosis bacteria which can lead to high fever, bad headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. During summer rainstorms in São Paulo, Brazil, floodwaters send torrents of sewage, garbage, and animal waste through miles of hillside slums and shanties. Outbreaks of leptospirosis often follow the floods. And in ...

Six Myths About Climate Change and the Clean Air Act

by Amy Sinden | April 18, 2011
In politics, repeating something over and over again can sometimes make it stick, whether it's true or not. From Reagan’s welfare queens, to the specter of “socialized” medicine leading to imminent communist takeover, these sorts of myths often start on the far right but then move surprisingly far to the center. And as the EPA has begun to move forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, we've seen one of these myths begin to take shape. This ...

EPA Marches On: Regulating Stationary Source GHG Emissions under the Clean Air Act

by Alice Kaswan | December 24, 2010
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE The environment received an early Christmas present from the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday, with EPA’s announcement that it would propose New Source Performance Standards (NSPSs) for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants and refineries in 2011, and then finalize the regulations in 2012.  The decision resolves a lawsuit brought by states, local governments, and environmental groups. EPA’s initiative will impose cost-effective controls on stationary sources of GHGs, and complement the agency’s ...

CPR Scholarship Round-up: Innovation for nonpoint source pollution and animal migrations on the one hand, and obfuscation at OIRA on the other

by Shana Campbell Jones | June 09, 2010
We’ve all seen the dramatic headlines recently concerning large-scale environmental disruptions, including a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf and mining disasters killing workers from West Virginia to China. Meanwhile, in Congress, climate change bills are proposed, altered, weakened, and eventually shelved, and the United States still fails to take action on climate change. CPR’s Member Scholars march forward, however, proposing reforms that range from creating transparency in agency decisions to protecting animal migrations. Below is a quick overview of some of their ...

Why Federal Climate Change Legislation Shouldn't Stop States From Innovating in Adaptation Efforts

by Alejandro Camacho | May 27, 2010
Even if a climate change bill like Kerry-Lieberman were to become law, the effects of climate change will still be dramatic, making adaptation a crucial complement to mitigation activities for addressing climate change. As specialists on local conditions with the capacity to innovate at a smaller scale, state and local authorities need to retain the authority to adopt adaptation strategies that prevent, reduce, and manage the effects that climate change will have on vulnerable natural resources under their jurisdiction. Though a federal ...

Group of AGs Urge Kerry-Graham-Lieberman to Not Preempt State Authorities on Climate

by Ben Somberg | April 07, 2010
Seven state attorneys general have written a letter this week, released today, urging senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman to retain key state authorities on combating climate change in their upcoming bill (The Hill, National Journal). The letter, from the AGs of California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, follows two recent letters (see ClimateWire, subs. required) from 14 senators and from 14 state environmental protection agencies that called for some similar steps. (Update: And here's an April 7 ...

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