2020-hand-wide.jpg
Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories of 2020 -- Part II

In my last post, I began counting down the top ten most significant developments affecting regulatory policy and public protections from the past year. This post completes the task. The good news is some of these developments offer some hope on realizing the goals of CPR’s Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. Others, however, suggest that the task of realizing those goals will be an arduous one.

  1. Environmental justice takes its rightful place as a top-tier issue. At the beginning of the year, environmental justice rose to unprecedented prominence thanks to advocacy efforts behind the Green New Deal and the introduction of major environmental justice legislation by Reps. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.). The issue took on greater urgency in May, after the alleged murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. His death, and the ensuing public outcry, focused national attention on systemic racial injustice in the United States.

    Since then, Biden tapped Sen. Kamala Harris, a noted environmental justice champion, as his running mate, and their transition team has made environmental justice a key part of its policy …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
2020-Array-Pixabay-wide-clean.jpg

This was the year in which many of our worst fears about the Trump administration came to pass. Racial unrest reached a boiling point. The GOP’s attacks on our democracy leading up to and after the election will take decades to fix. And of course, tens of thousands of lives have been needlessly lost to an unprecedented pandemic.

It was an ugly year. Not surprisingly, most of 2020’s top regulatory policy stories were ugly too. In general, policy developments aligned against the goals of CPR’s new Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. The incoming Biden-Harris administration can put us back on the right track, but they have a lot of work ahead of them.

Here are the first five of this year’s 10 most significant developments affecting …

Oct. 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi
wildfire01-wide.jpg

Amidst the president and First Lady testing positive for COVID-19, an embarrassing spectacle of a presidential "debate," and a pandemic that has now claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States and 1 million worldwide, the West Coast wildfires have lost the attention of the national news cycle. But California and nearby states are still very much ablaze.

As I write, 70 active large fires are raging in 10 western states. More than a third of these are in California, where more than 2 million acres of land are currently burning (an area larger than the state of Delaware). Four of the five largest fires in the state’s history started in the last two months.

These historic fires have already killed at least 35 people, forced thousands to evacuate, and exposed hundreds of thousands to extremely hazardous levels of fine particulate matter, or …

Sept. 24, 2020 by James Goodwin
Protest_wide.jpg

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
climate-march.jpg

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
smog-los-angeles-wide.jpg

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
scientist-wide.jpg

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. 15, 2020 by Joel Mintz
stream-oregon-wide.jpg

This is the second post of a two-part set. Click to read Part I.

As I noted in a previous post, the pending case of United States v. DTE Energy, Inc. tacitly raises issues concerning the constitutionality of both Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) and the citizen suit provisions of environmental laws. This second post considers another constitutional issue that may emerge in the DTE Energy litigation: whether SEP agreements – and citizen suits more generally – interfere with a “core executive function” of the president and executive branch and longstanding constitutional notions of separation of powers. To resolve that question soundly, one must look to the text of the Constitution itself, the Federalist Papers, and the relevant body of law that the lower federal courts have already developed.

Notably, neither the Constitution nor the Federalist Papers provide a clear indication of what constitutes a “core executive function” or the …

Sept. 14, 2020 by Joel Mintz
environmental-justice-clean-water-flickr-cc.jpg

This is the first post of a two-part set. Click to read Part II.

Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has shown increasing hostility to the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in settlements of federal environmental enforcement cases. Aside from a series of ever-tightening SEP policies, however, DOJ has never asserted in court that these projects are unconstitutional. At least not yet.

In a case pending before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, United States v. DTE Energy, Inc., the constitutionality of both SEPs and citizen suits in general may soon be at issue. The case began as a typical New Source Review matter in the Obama administration. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the Justice Department to sue DTE on the grounds that equipment updates to some of the company's electric generating …

Sept. 8, 2020 by Rena Steinzor
coronavirus3-pixabay-wide.jpg

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.
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