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July 20, 2021 by David Driesen

The Specter of Dictatorship Behind the Unitary Executive Theory

Environmentalists have complained for years about presidential control of the administrative agencies charged with protecting the environment, seeing it as a way of thwarting proper administration of environmentally protective laws. But the U.S. Supreme Court in two recent decisions — Seila Law v. CFPB and Collins v. Yellen — made presidential control over administrative agencies a constitutional requirement (with limited and unstable exceptions) by embracing the unitary executive theory, which views administrative agencies as presidential lackeys. My new book, The Specter of Dictatorship: Judicial Enabling of Presidential Power, shows that the unitary executive theory is not only bad for environmental policy, but a threat to democracy’s survival, upon which environmental policy and all other sensible policy depends.

In The Specter of Dictatorship, I trace the modern movement toward a unitary executive back to former President Ronald Reagan’s executive order establishing centralized review of agency decisions by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). That order undermined the rule of law by catalyzing gross violations of statutory deadlines and legally dubious compromises with OIRA, which habitually seeks to weaken environmental standards.

President Trump carried this further in his 2:1 executive order, which instructed agencies to ignore …

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. 23, 2021 by Richard E. Levy, Robert Glicksman
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This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

Since taking office, President Biden has pursued an active agenda to address many urgent matters that require his prompt attention. We hope one important initiative does not get lost in transition: restoring the norms of good governance.

During his term in office, President Trump sought to exert absolute control over the apparatus of government by undercutting normal operating practices and systematically dismantling protections for officials whose duty to the public might override their personal loyalty to him. It is no secret that Trump demanded personal loyalty from executive branch officials and fired those, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who prioritized complying with the law over following his orders. He has taken many actions to strip, override and undermine essential protections for our nation’s public servants.

Biden has already taken some steps to address these concerns. On Jan. 22 …

Jan. 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post originally ran in The Conversation and on Legal Planet and is reprinted here under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 4.0.

The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules.

The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. On his first day in office, Biden used that power to start bringing the U.S. back into the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, and to rescind a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and orders restricting travel from several predominantly Muslim and African countries. He also ordered a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Undoing most regulatory …

Jan. 20, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The pro-Trump insurrection that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6 was the most serious threat to the rule of law in our country in well over a century. Unless we fully grapple with the conditions and causes that gave rise to it, this threat will linger, waiting for the next spark to reignite it.

The Capitol insurrection is the predictable culmination of decades of self-serving attacks on "government." Especially since the Reagan administration, conservative lawmakers have increasingly amassed political fortunes by stoking the anger and resentment of millions of Americans who have been left behind by an ever more lopsided economy.

Their formula rests on a self-fulfilling prophesy: Attack government effectiveness to justify deep cuts to government functions, which in turn fuels new attacks on government and new calls for even deeper cuts.

Ordinarily, our free press would be responsible for halting …

Jan. 12, 2021 by Victor Flatt
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One of the most vexing environmental law issues of the last three decades is the scope of the term "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) in the Clean Water Act — and what marshes, lakes, and streams fall under its purview. A connected legal question stretching back even further is how much deference to give agencies in policymaking and legal interpretations.

These issues are present in both the Trump administration's final "Waters of the United States" rule, which narrowly defines waters subject to the act, and the Biden administration's likely attempt to expand that definition. The Trump administration's narrow approach dramatically reduces the number of waterways under federal protection. A broader definition would restore and possibly expand protections to better safeguard public and environmental health.

A new study on the economic analyses in the Trump rule (which I co-authored) concludes that its supporting economic analyses rely on questionable …

Jan. 8, 2021 by Amy Sinden, Richard Parker
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This post was originally published by the Yale Journal on Regulation's Notice & Comment blog. Reprinted with permission.

T’was the season of gift-giving and on December 9, outgoing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler delivered a parting gift for his successor in the form of a new regulation: Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process.

The new Rule is offered as a simple housekeeping measure designed “to ensure consistent, high-quality analyses [and to] codif[y] best practices for benefit-cost analysis in rulemaking.” Some observers find it relatively harmless; but others are not so sanguine. We view it as a sort of Trojan Horse—seemingly innocuous on its face, but harboring content that will hamper, and may undermine, EPA’s efforts to confront the climate crisis and protect the safety of the air we breathe. Here are a few …

Jan. 7, 2021 by Darya Minovi, James Goodwin
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UPDATE: On January 27, a federal district court in Montana found that the Trump EPA unlawfully made the censored science rule immediately effective. The court then delayed its effective date until February 5. This doesn't overturn the rule, but it does give the Biden-Harris administration more flexibility as it works to fully repeal this damaging policy.

In a last-ditch effort to further weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to protect public health, this week, the Trump administration published its final “censored science” rule. As stated in the Center for Progressive Reform’s comments on the draft rulemaking, this proposal unjustifiably limits the research that can be used in regulatory decision-making, giving more weight to studies where the underlying data is publicly available. These restrictions will apply to dose-response studies — which measure how much an increase in pollution exposure increases public health harms — and which …

Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In my previous post, I began my review of 10 key regulatory policy stories to watch out for as 2021 gets underway. In this piece, I wrap up that list and offer some closing thoughts.

  1. How will Congress oversee the Biden-Harris administration's regulatory actions? When Republicans regained control of the U.S. House in 2010, they wasted little time challenging the Obama administration's regulatory policies, regularly holding bombastic hearings for show and rolling out new bills meant to throttle the regulatory system. If Republicans win either or both Georgia runoffs for U.S. Senate tomorrow, they will retain control of the chamber and will likely borrow a page from this playbook. Whether the Biden-Harris administration vigorously defends its regulatory agenda or cowers like the Obama administration will determine how much progress it makes on its policy priorities. On the flipside, House Democrats have a crucial …

Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin
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Thanks to the recent presidential election results, I’m able to do something I haven’t done in a long time: look at a new year with something resembling hope and optimism. As noted in my December 21 posts, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on our system of regulatory safeguards in 2020, as it did in previous years. The incoming Biden-Harris administration brings a strong mandate to undo the damage — and to go further by building a more just and people-centered government that can meet the pressing challenges America faces.

CPR recently launched Policy for a Just America with this opportunity in mind. This initiative aims to rebuild and reimagine government and offers detailed recommendations aimed at promoting a more robust and responsive regulatory system.

Will we seize the moment? Here are the first five of 10 storylines I’ll be following this year. Each could significantly …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 20, 2021

The Specter of Dictatorship Behind the Unitary Executive Theory

March 2, 2021

Recalculating the Cost of Climate Change

Feb. 23, 2021

The Hill Op-ed: Biden Has the Power to Restore Good Governance

Jan. 25, 2021

The Controversial Congressional Review Act

Jan. 20, 2021

The Era of 'Small Government' Must End: Reflections on the Capitol Insurrection

Jan. 12, 2021

Study Finds Significant Flaws with Trump Waters of the United States Rule, Provides Legal Support for Biden Replacement

Jan. 8, 2021

Andrew Wheeler's Trojan Horse for Clean Air Act Regulation