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Jan. 21, 2020 by Robert Glicksman, Alejandro Camacho

Trump Is Trying to Cripple the Environment and Democracy

This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

The Trump administration has fired the latest salvo in its never-ending assault on environmental safeguards: a proposal from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to overhaul its regulations governing federal agency compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

The proposal would narrow the scope of NEPA’s protections, weaken federal agency duties when the law applies, and attempt to shield violations of NEPA from judicial oversight. More significantly, the proposal is wildly inconsistent with NEPA’s most fundamental goal: fostering deliberation and democratic participation to improve the government’s capacity to promote social welfare. 

NEPA relies on four key mechanisms.

First, it directs all federal agencies to accompany proposals for “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment” with a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) comparing the environmental impacts of the proposed action and its alternatives. 

This requirement forces agencies that might be (and sometimes had been) inclined to subordinate environmental considerations to unbridled development to consider whether creative approaches might achieve programmatic goals without sacrificing the environment.

Second, NEPA directs agencies to share with the public the information they develop in assessing the environmental effects …

Oct. 22, 2019 by Robert Glicksman, Alejandro Camacho
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Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

Ever since Ronald Reagan declared government to be the problem rather than the solution, the federal bureaucracy has been the target of criticism from right-leaning think tanks, regulatory skeptics in academia, and politicians of all political persuasions. Lately, members of the federal judiciary have visibly joined this chorus of criticism.

Among the charges leveled against regulation and the agencies responsible for issuing and enforcing rules is the claim that, even assuming the validity of regulatory goals, traditional regulatory approaches too often fail to achieve them or impose unjustified social costs. Others assert that regulatory "intrusions" on the operation of the free market are antithetical to the protection of individual liberty and the economic system on which our nation was built.

We take a different view.

Government regulation serves a critical role in promoting the public interest by, for …

Oct. 4, 2019 by Robert Glicksman, Alejandro Camacho
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Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

For five decades California and the federal government have worked together in an innovative exercise in federalism aimed at achieving cleaner air. California has played an important role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, particularly from motor vehicles.

But now, contrary to law and in a massive departure from past practice, President Donald Trump has announced that his administration is pulling the rug out from under California's feet by divesting it of its longstanding authority to adopt auto emission controls more stringent than the Environmental Protection Agency's.

The action, implemented jointly by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Administration, couldn't come at a worse time. Less than a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called "ambitious mitigation actions" indispensable to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees …

July 9, 2019 by Robert Glicksman
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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 enshrined in the Constitution. Finally, imagine a jurisprudence in which judges are committed to fashioning (or refashioning) administrative law doctrine to shackle the authority of agencies to which Congress has delegated regulatory authority at every opportunity. That is the world to which some members of the Supreme Court appear to aspire.1

In the waning days of the Supreme Court’s 2018–2019 term, a four-Justice plurality …

April 11, 2019 by Alejandro Camacho, Robert Glicksman
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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 …

July 19, 2018 by Robert Glicksman
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This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.

Last month, two Inspectors General issued scathing reports about their departments' behavior. The Justice Department's IG got all the attention, while largely overlooked was a disturbing report from the Interior Department IG, who concluded that the agency had no reasonable rationale for halting a major study of the health risks of mountaintop removal mining. The study was already under way, and nearly half of its $1 million price tag had already been spent, but Secretary Ryan Zinke and his lieutenants pulled the plug, presumably because they didn't want to have to face its likely findings. They told investigators it was "because they did not believe it would produce any new information and felt costs would exceed the benefits."

The Trump administration's insistence on suppressing scientific evidence of health risks inconvenient to extractive industries is at once shocking and unsurprising …

July 5, 2017 by Robert Glicksman
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Originally published by the George Washington Law Review

How should a court assessing a regulatory takings claim define the "property" allegedly taken to assess the degree of the economic impact the regulation has on it? That question has plagued the Supreme Court for nearly a century, with different and conflicting answers emerging, sometimes in relatively rapid succession. In Murr v. Wisconsin,1 the Court has provided its most comprehensive answer to the so-called "denominator" question so far, although even the analytical framework the Court provides leaves ample room for refinement in future cases.

Not until 1922 did the Supreme Court clearly establish that the Fifth Amendment's prohibition on the taking of property without just compensation (which applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment) applies to regulations as well as physical intrusions and compelled transfers of title. The case in which it did so provided its …

May 1, 2017 by Robert Glicksman
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Donald Trump's antagonism toward environmental and natural resource protections seems to know no bounds, legal or otherwise. Among his latest targets are our national monuments, which include some of the most beautiful and historically, scientifically, culturally, and ecologically important tracts of federally owned lands.

During the reign of destruction the president has unleashed in his first 100 days in office, his commitment to fossil fuel resource extraction and development regardless of the impact on our nation's natural resource heritage has become clear. Trump signed a bill repealing the Interior Department's regulations restricting mountaintop removal mining practices that impair water quality and create gaping landscape wounds. He blocked long overdue revisions to the Bureau of Land Management's land use planning rules that afforded greater importance to the protection of ecological integrity and required the agency to consider the impacts of climate change on public …

March 2, 2017 by Robert Glicksman
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In his first speech upon assuming his duties as EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt informed the agency's employees that "regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate." No, Mr. Pruitt, they do not. Regulators and the regulations they are responsible for adopting and enforcing exist to protect the public interest. In particular, they exist to correct market failures, such as the refusal of polluting industries to internalize the costs of the harm they do to public health and the environment. 

Of course, well-constructed regulations will also create certainty, and regulated entities typically prefer such certainty so they are able to understand their responsibilities and plan for compliance. Sometimes, they are even willing to support tougher regulations (especially if there is only one set to worry about) instead of having to accommodate multiple sets of rules. 

Regulations can even benefit the regulated community in many ways …

Feb. 28, 2017 by Robert Glicksman
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Imagine you come across a colleague sitting at his desk amid piles of yellowed papers. When you ask what he is working on, he says it's his annual family budget. "What's with all the old papers?" you might ask. "Oh," he replies, "I always work my new budget off my receipts and bills from 1983, the year we married. Some of them are getting pretty hard to read." "Don't you keep updated records?" you might ask. "And haven't your family finances changed significantly over the last 34 years? I know one of your kids is going to college this fall. You've bought a new house, and you and your wife have switched jobs since then." "Well, yes," your colleague says, "but 1983 is the baseline for us." 

No reasonable person would plan a budget this way. Yet it is exactly the approach …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 21, 2020

Trump Is Trying to Cripple the Environment and Democracy

Oct. 22, 2019

How to Improve Allocations of Regulatory Authority

Oct. 4, 2019

Trump's Decision to Hamstring California's Climate Authority Is Illogical and Uninformed

July 9, 2019

Kisor v. Wilkie: A Reprieve for Embattled Administrative State?

April 11, 2019

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

July 19, 2018

The Hill Op-Ed: Trump's Policies Blasting at the Foundations of Conservation in Public Land Law

July 5, 2017

Murr v. Wisconsin: The 'Whole Parcel' Rule Prevails, At Least in This Regulatory Takings Case