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April 5, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Appeals Court Nixes New York City Climate Lawsuit

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Last Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in a lawsuit against the oil industry. New York City had sued oil companies for harms relating to climate change. The appeals court ordered the case dismissed, on the ground that any harm relating to fossil fuels is exclusively regulated by the Clean Air Act. The ruling is a setback for the plaintiffs in similar cases, though how much of a setback remains to be seen.

The court's analysis is complicated and involves some fairly esoteric legal arguments. I'll try to avoid the fine points. In the end, the court's argument comes down to two points. The first point relates to fuels used in the United States. The court argues that by authorizing EPA to regulate carbon emissions, the Clean Air Act indirectly eliminates all lawsuits based on harm due to those emissions — even when the lawsuit is based on activities that the Clean Air Act doesn't regulate at all.

The second point relates to fuels burned outside the United States. The court argues that lawsuits based on state law are indirectly eliminated by a rule against …

March 31, 2021 by Maxine Burkett, Minor Sinclair
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Maxine Burkett

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. 

This week, CPR’s Executive Director, Minor Sinclair, spoke with Member Scholar Maxine Burkett, professor of law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Burkett has written extensively in diverse areas of climate law with a particular focus on climate justice, exploring the disparate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the United States and globally. Their conversation explored the roots of climate justice and its connections to present day climate action. 

MS: Natural disasters can be discriminatory for a host of reasons, and climate change is part of that. Why are certain communities more vulnerable …

March 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Coal- and gas-fired power plants are a major source of U.S. carbon emissions. The Obama administration devised a perfectly sensible, moderate policy to cut those emissions. The Trump administration replaced it with a ridiculous token policy. The D.C. Circuit appeals court tossed that out. Now what?

It wouldn't be hard to redo the Obama policy based on all the changes in the power industry since he left office, which would result in much more rigorous emissions controls. The problem is that the ultra-conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to be very skeptical of the legal basis of any plan that, like Obama's, requires states to expand use of renewable energy.

Opponents of Obama's plan made two legal arguments, which both came up again in the litigation over the Trump rule …

March 26, 2021 by Laurie Ristino, Maggie Dewane
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Laurie Ristino

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. 

This week, we spoke with Board Member Laurie Ristino, a policy and law expert on food security, climate change, ecosystem services, and land stewardship. Her work concerns developing new policy and civil society innovations to address climate change and social injustice while improving environmental and economic sustainability.

CPR: What motivated you to become an expert in food security policy and a voice for equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration?  

LR: I don’t consider myself a food security expert as much as I consider myself …

March 22, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt, Darya Minovi
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Last week, a Maryland circuit court ruled that the state must regulate and limit ammonia pollution from industrial poultry operations. This landmark decision takes an important step toward protecting the environment and public health in the Old Line State and could spur similar action in other states.

It is certainly needed in Maryland. The state's Lower Eastern Shore is home to a large number of industrial poultry operations; three Lower Eastern Shore counties house close to 44 million chickens at any given time — roughly 241 times greater than the number of people in the region.

Every year, these operations release millions of pounds of ammonia — a form of nitrogen — into the environment, polluting our land, water, and air. Ammonia is a colorless compound formed when nitrogen in chicken manure breaks down. It enters the air as a gas and can land on the ground, polluting groundwater and …

March 22, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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Kamala Harris. Janet Yellen. Deb Haaland. Gina Raimondo. Marcia Fudge. Jennifer Granholm. 

They’re making history as members of the largest group of women ever to serve on a presidential Cabinet. Haaland and Yellen are the first women in their positions, and Haaland is also the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

President Biden has appointed five additional women to Cabinet-level positions, including Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and Isabel Guzman as Small Business Administrator. Four of these five are Black, Asian American, or Latina. In total, women comprise nearly half of Biden’s Cabinet.

Women have been fighting for equality in this country for over a century — from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, to the Women’s Strike of 1970, to the Women’s March in 2017. For women who are Black American, Asian American, or Native American, the fight has …

March 19, 2021 by Sarah Krakoff, Maggie Dewane
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Sarah Krakoff

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. This week, we spoke with Sarah Krakoff, professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an expert on Native American law, public lands and natural resources law, and environmental justice.

CPR: What motivated you to become an ally to Native Americans and equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration? 

SK: My commitment grew out of anti-poverty and civil rights work I did while in law school, which included a very cursory introduction to the unique status and rights of Native nations. But my understanding …

March 15, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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This op-ed was originally published in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

A week after taking office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order “on tackling the climate crisis” that includes important measures to address the crisis comprehensively and equitably. Specifically, the order directs the federal government to take a “whole of government” approach to the climate crisis that pursues economic security, ensures environmental justice, and empowers workers.

The beginning of such a plan is promising, particularly after four years under an administration that wiped the word “climate” from government websites, rolled back the Obama administration’s steps to address the crisis, and made fossil fuel production a centerpiece of its agenda.

But it’s just that — a promising beginning. And it’s already under assault. The American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s largest oil and gas lobbying group, immediately attacked the order, and particularly its directive to pause …

March 12, 2021 by Maggie Dewane, Gilonne d'Origny
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Gilonne d'Origny

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. This week, we spoke with Board Member Gilonne d’Origny, a translational advisor for the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington, which designs new proteins to solve problems in medicine, energy, and technology.

CPR: What motivated you to become an expert in food policy and a voice for equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration?

GdO: Since my time at university, I’ve believed that food systems must change given the considerable carbon footprint of producing and supplying food, and the potential of …

March 9, 2021 by Karen Sokol, Robert Verchick
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In the United States, many people think the world's worst human rights abuses take place elsewhere. Unless you are among those in the United States who are subjected to such mistreatment.

On March 2, human rights experts called the world's attention to some of the most egregious and systematic human rights violations perpetuated here in the United States — and in particular in our neck of the woods in southeast Louisiana. International human rights experts condemned long-standing environmental racism in "Cancer Alley" — a heavily industrialized and polluted corridor along the Lower Mississippi River — and said it must end.

In a statement, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner summarized the experts' findings condemning the U.S. government's targeting of the residents of the region, most of whom are Black, for the siting of toxic polluting oil, gas, and chemical facilities. Plans to further develop the …

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