Climate Change, Public Health, and the Ocean and Coasts
Climate change is having significant effects on the ocean. Sea levels are rising. The ocean is becoming warmer, and because the ocean absorbs chemically reactive carbon dioxide, its pH is dropping. Hurricanes, typhoons, and other coastal storms are becoming stronger on average. Marine species are on the move, generally shifting toward the poles and, to a lesser extent, deeper. Coral reefs are dying.
Clearly, the climate impacts on the ocean are cause for concern. Between 2013 and 2016, the ocean along United States' west coast experienced a three-year surge of hot water that National Geographic dubbed "The Blob that Cooked the Pacific." Perhaps most fittingly, on Halloween 2018, Nature published a new study indicating that the ocean is warming 60 percent more per year than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had projected.
So, yes, there is cause for serious concern. And it's not just the health of ocean creatures we should be concerned about; it has huge implications for public health, as well.
In the "Oceans and Coasts" chapter (Chapter 8) of a new book called Climate Change, Public Health, and the Law, I lay out the connections between climate change impacts on the ocean and coasts and various kinds of public health threats.
Throughout most of the world, the coasts are becoming more crowded, and human migration to the coast is projected to continue throughout
Gutting Fuel Efficiency and States' Rights: The Trump EPA's Unsafe SAFE Vehicles Rule
This post was originally published on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission. On October 26, 2018, the comment period ended for a new rule that guts U.S. fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. If the final rule resembles the proposed rule, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule) will lock in old fuel efficiency standards, reversing Obama administration regulations mandating increased efficiency. Specifically, the
Argument Preview: Can a Hovercraft Navigate the Shoals of Yukon-Charley?
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Click here to read Professor Zellmer's follow-up analysis of the oral arguments in this case and here to read her analysis of the opinion. “Alaska is different.” So said Chief Justice John Roberts when the U.S. Supreme Court last took up this case two years ago in Sturgeon v. Frost (Sturgeon I). When the court hears a second oral argument in Sturgeon
Argument Preview: Justices May Consider Role of Legislative Motive in Pre-emption Analysis
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Click here to read Professor Hammond's follow-up analysis of the oral arguments in this case. On November 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren, which could test the extent to which a court will explore a state legislature’s motives when evaluating whether a state statute is pre-empted by federal law. The facts concern the
Fresno Bee Op-Ed: Trump Rolls Back Clean Car Standards as Air Quality Worsens
This op-ed originally ran in the Fresno Bee. Cities in the San Joaquin Valley continue to land among the American Lung Association's top 10 most polluted communities in the country. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the comment period closed on the Trump administration's plans to ratchet back federal emissions standards and eliminate California's authority to run its crucial car emissions programs. Although the administration has its eyes on greenhouse gas controls, what's at stake is California's ability to transition to low- and
Trump's Fall Anti-Safeguards Agenda: No Country for Young Children
The Trump administration's Fall 2018 regulatory agenda dropped late last night, and as with previous iterations of this preview of what's to come on the regulatory front, it is chock full of numbers – at least the kinds of numbers partisan ideologues and regulated industries care about. But what these numbers don't reveal are the kinds of things a decent society cares about. Basic things like how well we are protecting the health and welfare of children, for example. Already,
'National Security' Coal Bailout Collapses
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. In its desperate effort to save the failing American coal industry, the Trump administration promised to use emergency powers to keep coal-fired power plants in operation even though they're not economically viable. That would have been the kind of disruptive change that Trump promised to bring to Washington. But the effort seems to have gone aground, according to Politico. This outcome tells us something about the gap between Trump's promises of committing regulatory mayhem and the realities of
Justice Delayed: Mercedes-Benz's Diesel Pollution Remains Unprosecuted
by Joel Mintz | October 16, 2018
To serve the cause of justice, law enforcement must be prompt, even-handed, and appropriate to the circumstances of individual cases. In their handling of an important recent pollution case, however, the enforcement activities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have been none of those things. The case involves the alleged use by Mercedes-Benz of software "defeat devices" in its diesel cars to override pollution control devices. There is considerable evidence that Mercedes' misconduct was
The Hill Op-Ed: Blind Focus on 'Energy Dominance' May Cripple Endangered Species Act
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. The bald eagle, sea otter, timber wolf — these iconic animals and more have been saved by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). But the Trump administration doesn't seem to care about our country's natural heritage. It's using questionable arguments about the popular law in an effort to gut protections and convert our public lands into private assets. The administration's destructive intent is apparent in the proposed revisions to the ESA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Trump Administration's Acknowledgement of Climate Change Is Cynical -- and Potentially Sinister
As Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post reported on September 27, the Trump administration seems to finally be acknowledging that climate change is real. But the motivation for recognizing that reality is cynical, at best, so rather than proposing doing something – anything – about climate change, the administration concludes we shouldn't bother trying. Buried in a 500-page justification for a rule that would prevent California (and, by extension, other states) from regulating emissions of
Environmental Justice Is Worth Fighting For
Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission. The reactions to our article, Inequality, Social Resilience, and the Green Economy, have a clear message: We, environmentalists, have our work cut out for us. We wrote our article to start an overdue conversation about environmental policy and social and economic well-being, and we thank our commentators for joining us in starting this conservation. In response, we would note that, although protecting the
Argument Preview: Justices to Consider Critical-Habitat Designation for Endangered Frog
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Editor's note: You can read Professor Heinzerling's follow-up post, which analyzes the oral arguments in this case, on SCOTUSblog. A tiny amphibian takes center stage in the first case of October 2018 term. The dusky gopher frog is native to the forested wetlands of the southern coastal United States, with a historical range from the Mississippi River in Louisiana to the
Knick v. Township of Scott: Takings Advocates' Nonsensical Forum Shopping Agenda
On Wednesday, October 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Knick v. Township of Scott. The case poses the question of whether property owners suing state or local governments under the Takings Clause are required to pursue their claims in state court (or through other state compensation procedures) rather than in federal court, at least if the state has established a fair and adequate procedure for awarding compensation if a taking has in fact occurred. The Knick
The Case for Co-Benefits
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. The Trump administration is moving toward the view, long popular in industry, that when it regulates a pollutant, EPA can consider only the health impacts of that particular pollutant – even when the regulation will also reduce other harmful pollutants. This idea is especially important in climate change regulation because cutting carbon emissions almost always results in reductions of other pollutants like particulates that are dangerous to health. This may seem like a minor technical issue. But by
Expanding Environmental Justice to Achieve a Just Transition
Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission. A recent study tells us that Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, may have caused as many as 4,600 deaths, far exceeding the initial official death toll of 64. In contrast, contemporaneous hurricanes in Texas and Florida appear to have caused far fewer deaths: 88 in Texas and 75 in Florida. The differing outcomes bring home the importance of Sidney
The Jobs and Regulation Issue Revisited
Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission. Despite noisy political claims to the contrary, the weight of the evidence suggests that regulation has a small impact on the total number of jobs. Still, regulation is bound to have some effect on who has jobs, what kinds of jobs they have, and where those jobs can be found. How much should we care about that? In a new
Regulating the Green Economy
Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission. A green economy will generate thousands of new jobs — many more than will be lost to regulations on carbon pollution. But a green economy may also increase wealth inequality in some parts of the United States because people who lose jobs to carbon controls are not the same as those who will get them when the green economy blooms.
From Surviving to Thriving -- The National Environmental Policy Act and Disasters
by Joel Mintz | September 21, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. In August, 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought widespread devastation to the southeastern United States, destroying buildings, flooding neighborhoods, and taking lives. Harvey shattered the national rainfall record for a single storm, dropping over 50 inches of rain in a 36-hour period. The Houston area suffered massive flooding, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attempted to balance