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March 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Biden's Dilemma: Limiting Carbon from Existing Power Plants

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. The first was that existing power plants were exempt from section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which was the legal basis of the Obama plan. The other argument was that section 111(d) merely allows restrictions on emissions from fossil fuel plants but can't require a change in a state's energy …

March 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

If you ask Supreme Court experts what keeps them up at night, the answer is likely to be the non-delegation doctrine. If you are among the 99.9 percent of Americans who've never heard of it, here's an explainer of the doctrine and what the 6-3 Court might do with it.

What's the nondelegation doctrine?

Simply put, the doctrine says that only the legislature can create new rules of law and that Congress cannot transfer this power to the executive branch or the judiciary. That sounds very reasonable. The big problem is that Congress often has to give discretion to the people implementing a law to fill in gaps, apply rules to particular circumstances, and deal with ambiguities. For instance, there are hundreds of toxic chemicals, and it's not realistic to think that Congress could make …

March 24, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In a little-noticed move on Day One, President Joe Biden issued a memo designed to institute a more progressive process for developing new regulations. Such an effort is essential, given that timely, effective regulations will play a key role in achieving Biden-Harris administration's policy agenda. To succeed, however, it must also tackle the conservative philosophy that guides our government's rulemaking process.

Biden's memo focuses on the mechanics of the rulemaking process, and especially two institutions that heavily influence regulatory decisions: centralized, White House review of proposed rules and economics-focused assessments of them. President Reagan and his successors have issued a string of executive orders to govern these institutions. Biden's memo addresses flaws in the current iteration, Executive Order 12866 (along with some other, related orders). Fixing these flaws is necessary to create a more progressive regulatory system that better protects people and the planet.

A flawed foundation …

March 23, 2021 by James Goodwin, Sidney Shapiro
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This op-ed originally ran in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

To paraphrase French economist Thomas Piketty, the task of evaluating new regulations is too important to leave to just economists. Yet, since the 1980s, White House-supervised regulatory impact analysis has privileged economic efficiency as the primary and often only legitimate objective of federal regulation. The regulatory reform initiative launched by President Joseph R. Biden on his first day in office creates an opportunity to reorient regulatory analysis in ways that both reformers and the public support.

Legal and policy experts object to hyper-technical regulatory analysis, and new public opinion polling indicates that voters agree.

Far from a monolithic concept, cost-benefit analysis encompasses a wide range of approaches and techniques, all with their own theoretical underpinnings and ethical commitments. Indeed, the current version of cost-benefit analysis is grounded in the conservative discipline of welfare economics and seeks …

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 Alejandro Camacho, Melissa Kelly
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This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Notwithstanding the Freedom of Information Act's primary goal of promoting transparency in government decision-making, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled by a 7-to-2 vote that the public policy of facilitating agency candor in exercising its expertise in preliminary agency deliberations can outweigh such transparency and accountability concerns. Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the 11-page opinion, her first majority opinion since joining the court in October. It was a natural debut given that the case, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, was the first oral argument that Barrett heard after joining the bench.

The case presented the question of whether FOIA's deliberative-process privilege exempts from disclosure certain documents prepared during a statutorily required interagency consultation process between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service …

March 8, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
Womens Day

Change is a natural phenomenon, though it is often met with resistance and skepticism. Women, who are responsible for countless social, cultural, political, scientific, and economic achievements that have shaped the world, have stood in the face of such resistance, particularly when confronted with unequal opportunity and rights. 

International Women’s Day celebrates the changes made by women and calls for action to accelerate women’s equality. This year, International Women’s Day notes that a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change

At the Center for Progressive Reform, the women on our staff “choose to challenge” existing norms so that we may create a just America that works for all people and our planet. Below, our women staff describe what motivates them to work for all Americans.

The women of CPR

Maggie Dewane, Digital Media Manager — My mother worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for …

March 3, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro
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Amid the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of politics these days, one fact stands out — a large majority of Americans want more regulatory protection in a wide variety of areas, according to a recent poll of likely voters.

The results are consistent with previous polls that indicate that Americans understand the importance of government regulation in protecting them from financial and health risks beyond their control. They also indicate majority support for efforts by the Biden administration to renew government regulation — as well as a stark repudiation of former President Trump’s extreme anti-regulatory agenda.

The poll, conducted in January by Data for Progress and the Center for Progressive Reform, found that a majority of likely voters favor more regulation of drinking water pollution (74 percent); consumer product safety (71percent); privacy data (70 percent); air pollution (68 percent …

March 2, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

"The social cost of carbon" isn't exactly a household phrase. It's an estimate of the harm caused by emitting a ton of carbon dioxide over the many decades it remains in the atmosphere. That's an important factor in calculating the costs and benefits of climate regulations. For an arcane concept, it has certainly caused a lot of controversy. The Obama administration came up with a set of estimates, which Trump then slashed by 90 percent.

In an early executive order, Biden created a task force to revisit the issue. Last week, the task force issued its first report. It's an impressive effort given that Biden is barely a month into his presidency. The document provides a clear overview of the ways in which climate science and climate economics have advanced since the Obama estimates and makes …

Feb. 26, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

In the wake of the Texas blackouts, we're seeing a number of familiar moves to deflect blame by the usual suspects — politicians, regulators, and CEOs. These evasive tactics all begin with a core truth: Eliminating all risk is impossible and would be too expensive even if it weren't. But then they spin that truth in various ways. The result is to obscure responsibility for the disaster and the steps that should be taken going forward.

Here are some of the most common dodges — not counting such crass moves as blaming everything on the Green New Deal or the media.

Dodge #1: No one could have foreseen this event! This often sounds reasonable. How could anyone have foreseen that New Orleans' levees would simply collapse, or that a historic tsunami would hit the nuclear reactors at Fukushima …

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