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Jan. 24, 2019 by Daniel Farber

The Worst of a Bad Lot

Originally published on Legal Planet.

The Trump administration has many energy and environmental initiatives, none of them good. But in terms of shoddy analysis and tenuous evidence, the worst is the administration's attempt to freeze fuel efficiency standards. For sheer lack of professionalism, the administration's cost-benefit analysis is hard to match. And you can't even say that the administration is captive to industry, because this isn't something industry asked for. It's a case of untethered ideology trumping evidence and economics.

By way of background, §202 of the Clean Air Act requires EPA to impose standards for emissions from new motor vehicles once it has found that a pollutant endangers human health or welfare. During the Obama administration, EPA issued such standards for greenhouse gases, in tandem with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, pronounced 'nitsa'), which regulates fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. The car industry was already under pressure because of regulations adopted in California, so the agencies were not writing on a blank slate. Those standards were scheduled to become increasingly strict for the next several years. The Trump administration proposed freezing the standards at their current levels (dubbing their proposal the SAFE rule). Such a regulatory action …

Jan. 17, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet.

In theory, cost-benefit analysis should be just as relevant when the government is deregulating as when it is imposing new regulations. But things don't seem to work that way. This is the second of two blog posts analyzing how costs and benefits figured in decisions during the past two years of unified GOP control of the federal government (read the first post here). Today, I focus on Congress.

For the first time in history, Congress made aggressive use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back federal regulations. It had only been used once before, but in 2017, Congress overturned fifteen government regulations in short order. Liberals decried these regulatory rollbacks as a mass attack on the environment and the public interest more generally. Conservatives applauded Congress for cutting the heavy cost of government regulation and boosting the economy. It appears …

Jan. 15, 2019 by James Goodwin
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During his tenure, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt launched multiple assaults on environmental and public health safeguards. His attacks on clean air standards and water quality regulations made so little sense in our reality that he went to the absurd and extreme lengths of creating an alternative reality to make them look legitimate. That alternative reality is rendered in the "benefits-busting" rule, which would systematically distort the analyses EPA economists conduct to assess the economic impacts of the agency's pending rulemakings. With Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler's Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for January 16, lawmakers will have the opportunity to learn more about this dangerous rulemaking – and hopefully call upon Wheeler to abandon it altogether.

As I explained in a previous post, the Trump EPA's benefits-busting rule is all about denying the real, positive impacts that environmental safeguards are making in our communities. Specifically, it …

Jan. 9, 2019 by Daniel Farber
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This op-ed was orignally published in the Washington Monthly.

In December of 2017, Donald Trump gathered the press for a variation on a familiar activity from his real estate mogul days. Stretched between a tower of paper taller than himself, representing all current federal regulations, and a small stack labeled "1960," was a thick piece of red ribbon – red tape, if you will. The president promised that "we're going to get back below that 1960s level." With his daughter Ivanka and other advisors by his side, Trump used comically large scissors to cut the ribbon.

Cutting regulations has been a priority for nearly every Republican politician since at least the 1980s. But the Trump-era GOP, unsatisfied with the existing deregulatory toolkit, has found a bigger pair of scissors. Call it cost-cost analysis: to justify getting rid of regulations they dislike, Republicans have decided to systematically …

Dec. 11, 2018 by Dave Owen
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Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog.

This morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA released a proposed new rule that would change the agencies' shared definition of "waters of the United States." That phrase defines the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. 

The proposed rule would narrow the scope of federal jurisdiction, primarily in two ways.  First, it would eliminate jurisdiction for "ephemeral" streams – that is, streams where water flows only during and shortly after precipitation events. Second, it would eliminate jurisdiction for wetlands that lack an intermittent or permanent surface connection to navigable-in-fact waterways and that are not directly adjacent to those waterways. In practice, this will mean removing protections for wetlands that are close to surface waterways and are connected to those surface waterways through groundwater flows.

In the rule itself, and in the rhetoric surrounding …

Dec. 10, 2018 by Daniel Farber
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Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

In terms of regulatory policy, the second half of Trump's term is shaping up to look a lot like Obama's final two years in office. Congress won't be doing much to advance Trump's environment and energy agenda, as was the case with Obama. So, like Obama, Trump's focus will be on administrative action, particularly regulatory initiatives (or deregulatory ones, in Trump's case). The big question is how these efforts will fare in court. I want to discuss three aspects of that question: timing, judicial review of statutory issues, and judicial review of policy analysis.

Timing. The Trump people are keenly aware that some of Obama's most important rules were still in the litigation process when he left office, which has kept those rules hanging in the wind for the two years since Trump took office. They seem desperate to avoid the same fate …

Dec. 6, 2018 by Daniel Farber
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Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

This is the second of three posts assessing the first two years of the Trump administration. You can read the first post here.

We all seem to be subscribed to the "All Trump News, All the Time" newsfeed. It may be helpful to step back a bit and compare Trump with his last Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

How do the two stack up? Bush and Trump were very different in character and style, but their regulatory aims were similar. Bush and Trump were both trying to steer the country in the same directions in terms of regulatory policy: increased use of fossil fuels, less environmental regulation. But the Republican Party has been radicalized since Bush's day, and in environmental affairs, the Trump administration reflects that radicalization.

For instance, whereas Bush actually created important ocean national monuments (though it was a bit out …

Dec. 3, 2018 by Daniel Farber
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Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

In September 2017 – that seems so long ago! – Eric Biber and I released a report assessing the state of play in environmental issues 200 days into the Trump administration, based on an earlier series of blog posts. As we end Trump's second year, it's time to bring that assessment up to date. This is the first of three posts examining what Trump has done (and hasn't done) in terms of environment and energy.

For this first post, I'll follow the same outline as the 9/17 report but omit a lot of the detail.

Legislation. Eric and I considered substantive legislative changes very unlikely although potentially very damaging. Almost no substantive changes have made it through Congress. The one exception was the provision in the Senate tax bill for opening up ANWR for drilling, which was able to use reconciliation procedures since it …

Nov. 8, 2018 by Matt Shudtz
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For two years, President Trump has attempted to steer federal policy in ways that undercut core American values. His vision of government – to the extent one can divine a coherent vision – lacks compassion, fairness, a commitment to equal voice and opportunity, and concern for the long-term threats that families and communities cannot address on their own. Instead, the president has embarked on a campaign to remake the core institutions of our democracy in a new, authoritarian mold. And along the way, he has set an expectation for his administration that its agenda and his personal political and financial aspirations carry more weight than the rule of law.

Tuesday's midterms showed that Americans are tired of Congress rubber-stamping the president's actions and letting his mean-spirited rhetoric become normalized. The newly minted Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will be sworn in in early January with a mandate …

Nov. 1, 2018 by Hannah Wiseman
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This post was originally published on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission.

On October 26, 2018, the comment period ended for a new rule that guts U.S. fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. If the final rule resembles the proposed rule, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule) will lock in old fuel efficiency standards, reversing Obama administration regulations mandating increased efficiency. Specifically, the "preferred alternative" expressed by the Trump administration's EPA is to keep 2020 standards for both passenger vehicles and light trucks through 2026, replacing current regulations that required enhanced efficiency during the six-year period. Further, the rule proposes to remove California's existing authorization to regulate carbon emissions from cars, preempting both California's regulation and other states that have adopted standards identical to California's.

This blunt about-face in …

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