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Oct. 10, 2019 by James Goodwin

What the Trump Impeachment Inquiry Teaches Us about the Federal Bureaucracy

Just when it seemed that President Donald Trump was completely immune to accountability for his various abuses of power, impeachment proceedings against him have quickly picked up steam over the last couple weeks.

Laying aside what happens with Trump, it's significant that it was a whistleblower complaint from a current CIA officer that helped expose the president's misconduct. (Reports that a second whistleblower, another intelligence official, is preparing to step forward have emerged in recent days.)

Therein lies one of the many important civics lessons to be drawn from the bit of history we're witnessing: The process to this point has confirmed the value of a high-quality, independent, and professional federal bureaucracy to the effective functioning of our democracy. For starters, while Trump administration political appointees and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are likely to dominate the headlines as this drama plays out, it was ultimately the courageous act of one career public servant that set it in motion. (Depending on the second whistleblower's identity and actions, it might be another public servant who is responsible for ensuring that the proceedings reach a legitimate conclusion.)

Perhaps more significantly, that the impeachment proceedings have taken on so …

Sept. 16, 2019 by Amy Sinden
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Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The Trump EPA last month proposed a new plan to remove oil and gas developers’ responsibility for detecting and fixing methane leaks in their wells, pipelines and storage operations. This proposal to axe the Obama-era methane rule is notable for two reasons. First, it is a huge step backward in the race to stabilize the climate, just at the moment scientists warn we need to move forward with unprecedented speed. Second, it’s the latest in a growing list of Trump rollbacks opposed by the very industries they’re purportedly intended to help.

The Obama EPA put the methane rule in place for good reason: Methane is a powerful driver of climate disruption. While it doesn’t linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, for the 10 or 20 years it …

May 20, 2019 by James Goodwin
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The annual Duke Law Journal Administrative Law Symposium has long served as one of the most prestigious fora for cutting-edge administrative law scholarship. This year's event, which featured the leadership and contributions of six CPR Member Scholars, was no exception. Each symposium is built around a theme, and this year's topic was "Deregulatory Games," which examined how the Trump administration's aggressive and often bizarre assault on our system of regulatory safeguards has tested the long-standing doctrines, norms, and institutions of U.S. administrative law. Last week, the Duke Law Journal published a compilation of articles derived from the presentations at this year's symposium.

It's safe to say no aspect of the Trump administration has been normal, and that especially rings true with regulation. While undermining the regulatory system has long been a goal of conservative policymakers and their corporate interest allies, the manner in which …

May 8, 2019 by Alejandro Camacho
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Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

At the outset of the Trump Administration, policymakers of all stripes hoped infrastructure might be an issue on which Congress and the President could reach bipartisan agreement. President Donald J. Trump stressed infrastructure needs during and after the 2016 election, and members of Congress from both parties asserted that repairing and upgrading infrastructure was a top priority. Recently, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats claimed to make progress over the possibility of a $2 trillion infrastructure package. But more than two years into the Trump presidency, the nation has little to show for all that talk, aside from unworkable policies and elusive proposals.

The United States clearly needs a nationwide effort to repair existing roads and bridges, upgrade public transportation systems, build out green infrastructure, and retrofit private and public buildings for the energy future. The government has …

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 …

March 29, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

The Washington Post has a list of false statements by Trump, which turns out to be searchable by topic. They've found, "In the first eight months of his presidency, President Trump made 1,137 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day." As of March 17, he was up to 9,179 false statements. There were 200 false statements about the environment – that's about one every four days, which compares favorably to the number of misrepresentations on some other topics. They're quite repetitive, but I've picked out some of the most frequent ones. By the way, if you're interested, the Post also explains why each of these statements is wrong. I shudder to think what people who follow him on Twitter are picking up in the way of misconceptions.

Air and Water

  • "Some of the best farmland in the …

March 14, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

The possibility of declaring a national emergency to address climate change will probably remain under discussion for the next couple of years, particularly if the courts uphold Trump's "wall" emergency. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to pull together the series of blog posts I've written on the subject. I want to emphasize three key points at the beginning:

  1. Declaring a climate emergency should be off the table if the Supreme Court rules against Trump.  
  2. An emergency declaration is not a magic wand that gives presidents a blank check. A declaration would allow some constructive steps to be taken, but within limits.  
  3. The ultimate goal has to be congressional action, and an emergency declaration should only be considered as part of a larger legislative and administrative agenda.

Even if the Court upholds Trump, using this precedent to fight climate …

March 4, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

I have a confession: When I started thinking about the possibility of a climate emergency declaration, it was mostly as a counterpoint to Trump's possible (now certain) declaration of an immigration emergency. As I've thought about it, however, it seems to me that there are enough potential benefits to make the idea worth serious consideration. A relatively restrained use of emergency powers could still have some real payoff.

In general, I'm not in favor of expanding the use of presidential power into new territory. As Trump illustrates on a nearly daily basis, presidential powers are dangerous in the wrong hands. But if the Supreme Court upholds Trump, that objection becomes pretty much moot.

Still, an emergency declaration isn't a magic wand that would allow a president to enact the Green New Deal. As I wrote in a previous post, it mostly gives …

Feb. 18, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Trump finally pulled the trigger and declared a national emergency so he can build his wall. But if illegal border crossings are a national emergency, then there's a strong case for viewing climate change in similar terms. That point has been made by observers ranging from Marco Rubio to Legal Planet's own Jonathan Zasloff in a post last week. I agree, but I want to dig deeper because it's such an important point.

In order to uphold Trump's emergency declaration, the Supreme Court will have to either rule that the definition of emergency is exceedingly broad or that courts have little or no power to scrutinize a presidential declaration. There is a genuine legal basis for calling climate change a national emergency, as opposed to Trump's ridiculous border-security declaration.

One reason why it would be hard for the Supreme Court to …

Jan. 31, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

Conservatives, with full support from Donald Trump, have come up with a menu of ways to weaken the regulatory state. In honor of National Backward Day – that's an actual thing, in case you're wondering, and it's today – let's think about reversing those ideas. In other words, let's try to come up with similar mechanisms to strengthen protections for public health and the environment instead of weakening protections. It's an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

Here's what the Backward Day effort might look like:

The 2-for-1 Executive Order. One of Trump's first actions was to issue an executive order calling for repealing two regulations for every new regulation. Let's reverse that: if the government is going to repeal a regulation that protects public health or the environment, it needs to adopt two new protective regulations to take its place. After all, protecting the …

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