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Oct. 19, 2020 by James Goodwin

Will Confirming Judge Barrett be the Death of Chevron Deference?

This post was originally published on the Union of Concerned Scientists' blog. Reprinted with permission.

For many of us, the prospect of a Supreme Court with Judge Amy Coney Barrett giving conservatives a solid 6-3 supermajority is nightmare fuel. The consequences extend beyond hot-button social issues, such as women's reproductive rights or individual access to affordable health care. If confirmed, Barrett would likely spur the aggressive pro-business agenda that the Court has pursued under the auspices of Chief Justice John Roberts.

A key item on that agenda is overturning something called Chevron deference, which some business groups have made a top priority in their broader campaign to bring about, as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon put it, the "deconstruction of the administrative state." In other words, changing this key doctrine would undermine the ability of Executive branch agencies to regulate on a huge range of public health, safety and environmental protection issues.

Chevron deference springs from a 1984 Supreme Court case called Chevron v. NRDC, which involved a legal challenge against a Clean Air Act rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Specifically, the lawsuit claimed that the rule was based on an incorrect …

Oct. 15, 2020 by James Goodwin
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Recently, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) launched its Beyond 12866 initiative, which seeks to promote progressive regulatory reform as a key component of the progressive movement’s efforts to build a more socially just and equitable America. To accomplish this goal, though, we must come to grips with how the regulatory system is perpetuating racial injustice and reinforcing race-based inequities. In a new web article, I take this first step by sketching out some of the ways in which cost-benefit analysis has contributed to structural racism in the broader regulatory system.

As the piece explains, regulatory cost-benefit analysis purports to adhere to a kind of “moral objectivity,” which precludes considerations of important American values like equity, justice, and fairness. Conveniently, this studied “see no evil” approach has rendered the methodology an effective conduit for injecting racism into regulatory decision-making – much as facile claims of “color blindness …

Oct. 1, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This is the second part of a two-post set. Read the first post here.

In yesterday's post, I discussed the essentially undemocratic ways that conservatives have come to the brink of a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court and examined one significant implication for regulatory policy: the likely effect on the Court's view on Chevron deference. In this second post, I explore several other ways the Court could undermine the essential democratic character of the regulatory system.

Nondelegation. Progressives dodged a big bullet in 2019 when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Gundy v. United States. In the case, conservatives sought to resuscitate a long-dormant doctrine known as nondelegation, which generally prohibits Congress from transferring its legislative authority to another branch, but again fell one vote short of doing so. Similar to Chevron deference, conservatives believe that the federal courts’ failure to enforce a more …

Sept. 30, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This is the first part of a two-post set. The second post is available here.

Last week, Matthew Yglesias published an important piece at Vox explaining the many ways conservatives have succeeded in exploiting fundamentally undemocratic features of our constitutional structure of government to advance their policy agenda. This strategy will have reached its grotesque culmination if they manage to seat Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the U.S. Supreme Court.

He’s rightfully angry about the situation – as should we all be – but the story he tells, thorough and infuriating as it is, misses an important point: It could actually get much worse. That’s because it's likely that Barrett will be a reliable vote in support of advancing the conservatives’ dream of stripping the U.S. regulatory system of its essential democratic features, transforming it into yet another vacuum cleaner with which the nation’s …

Sept. 25, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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Grappling with a contentious dispute over cross-state air pollution, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority in Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation, first consulted the King James Bible. “‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth,’ she wrote, “In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind.”

It was 2014, and at stake was a complicated, science-driven plan crafted by the EPA to limit air pollution that wafts from one state to endanger communities in another. The plan, which budgeted air emissions in certain states, promised to save thousands of lives and bring cleaner air to poor and minority neighborhoods. But in so doing, it would force several aging coal plants to close. Industry cried foul, saying …

Sept. 24, 2020 by James Goodwin
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An underappreciated side effect of the modern conservative movement now epitomized by Trumpism is its dogged pursuit of any legal argument to support “the cause,” no matter how ridiculous or specious. Long-settled questions like nondelegation and the constitutionality of independent regulatory agencies are suddenly, if bizarrely, up for grabs again. Add to this list a new line of argument – now germinating like a mushroom spore in horse manure – that posits that citizen suit provisions, such as those included in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, are unconstitutional infringements upon the so-called unitary executive.

Earlier this month CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz demolished this argument in a pair of posts published here. In this post, I want to move the ball forward and argue that citizen suits offer an essential opportunity for public engagement in regulatory implementation and thus should be extended universally across the entire …

Sept. 22, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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With Sen. Mitt Romney’s announcement this morning that he would support consideration of a nominee before the election, it now seems virtually certain that President Trump will be able to appoint a sixth conservative justice. How will that affect future climate policy? Here is a preliminary threat assessment.

The answer varies, depending on what policies we’re talking about. Overall, the implications of a 6-3 Court are bad. But they’re probably not as dire for environmental law as for other issues like racial equality or reproductive rights.

As a quick preliminary take on this, I’ll sort heightened legal risks of climate actions into high, medium, low, and wildcard. The wildcard risks actually worry me the most.

High Risk

Innovative regulations like Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Regulations by EPA that use existing statutory …

Sept. 17, 2020 by Joel Mintz, Victor Flatt
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This op-ed was originally published by The Revelator. Reprinted under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of worrisome and needless regulatory relaxations that have increased pollution across the United States. Recent reporting by the Associated Press and other outlets has documented more than 3,000 pandemic-based requests from polluters to state agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for waivers of environmental requirements. Numerous state governments, with the tacit encouragement of the EPA, went along with many of those requests. All too often, those waivers — requested, ostensibly, to protect American workers from exposure to the coronavirus — were granted with little or no review, notwithstanding the risks the resulting emissions posed to public health and the environment.

EPA invited this wave of waivers back in March, announcing it would relax its enforcement upon request, under cover of …

Sept. 16, 2020 by Rena Steinzor
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This op-ed was originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

"I'm not convinced it's real. I think it's nothing more than the flu. If I die from the virus, it was just meant to be," Thomas Seale, an attendee at the Sturgis Motorcycle rally, reportedly said of COVID-19.

An estimated 460,000 people who love motorcycle culture and the company of like-minded people attended the huge rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, population 7,000, for 10 days in August 2020. They rode around, had races, attended bike shows and concerts, and drank beer. Face masks were rare.

People told New York Times reporter Mark Walker about the core importance of the event: they met their spouses at earlier rallies, referred to their fellow participants as family, or had attended the rally for decades. When asked about the pandemic, the attendees explained they were not …

Sept. 8, 2020 by Rena Steinzor
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This commentary is included in the September/October 2020 edition of "The Debate," a section of The Environmental Forum. It was originally published by the Environmental Law Institute and is reprinted here with permission.

As the country prays for relief from the global pandemic, what have we learned that could help us protect the environment better? Most alarming, I would argue, are COVID-19's revelations about the power of conspiracy theories and the antipathy they generate toward scientific experts.

Take "America's Doctor" and the dark rumors percolating on right-wing websites. Anthony Fauci is a "Deep-State Hillary Clinton-loving stooge." He was paid off to the tune of $100 million by Bill Gates, who has invested heavily in the develop­ment of vaccines for COVID-19 and corruptly opposes chloroquine, a life-saving cure. The genesis of the pandemic was a Chinese virology lab, where scientists deliberately cre­ated …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 19, 2020

Will Confirming Judge Barrett be the Death of Chevron Deference?

Oct. 15, 2020

New Web Article Explores the Racism of Regulatory Cost-Benefit Analysis

Oct. 1, 2020

How the Shifting Winds on the Supreme Court Could Undermine Our Regulatory System -- and Our Democracy

Sept. 30, 2020

The Regulatory System Is an Important Part of Our Democracy. The 'Trump' Supreme Court Could Change That.

Sept. 25, 2020

CPR Reflects on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Legacy

Sept. 24, 2020

Citizen Suits Are Good for the Regulatory System, and We Need More of Them

Sept. 22, 2020

Fighting Global Warming in a Chilly Judicial Climate