pesticides_wide.jpg
May 7, 2021 by Daniel Farber

The Ninth Circuit Makes EPA an Offer It Can't Refuse

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides in America, although it has been banned in the European Union. Last week, the Ninth Circuit took the extraordinary step of ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) point-blank to ban or reduce traces of chlorpyrifos in food. A dissenter accused the majority of misreading the statute in question and abusing its discretion by limiting EPA's options so drastically and giving it only 60 days to act. Warning: The majority and dissenting opinions cover 116 pages, so I'll necessarily be leaving out a lot of details and nuances.

Who is right depends partly on how you read the statute and partly on whether EPA was acting in good faith. Judge Bybee thought that EPA had acted in good faith, while the majority clearly thought EPA had been intentionally dragging its feet for 14 years to avoid implementing its statutory mandate.

Given chlorpyrifos' widespread use, it is economically very important. That also means it is likely to be present in many foods. That's a big worry, since there's evidence that exposure to chlorpyrifos before birth can cause neurological problems in …

April 29, 2021 by Daniel Farber
stream_wide.jpg

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

April 30 marks President Biden's first 100 days in office. He's appointed a great climate team and is negotiating an infrastructure bill that focuses on climate change. With luck, those actions will produce major environmental gains down the road. There are also some solid gains in the form of actions that have already come to fruition. Here's where things stand.

Executive orders. Former President Trump seemed to delight in issuing anti-environmental executive orders. All of those are gone now, replaced with Biden's environment-friendly substitute. In one important move, Biden restored former President Obama's estimate of the social cost of carbon, which Trump had slashed.

Foreign affairs. Here the big news is that Biden has taken the United States back into the Paris agreement and has submitted a commitment cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels …

April 5, 2021 by Daniel Farber
FloatingEarth_wide.jpg

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Last Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in a lawsuit against the oil industry. New York City had sued oil companies for harms relating to climate change. The appeals court ordered the case dismissed, on the ground that any harm relating to fossil fuels is exclusively regulated by the Clean Air Act. The ruling is a setback for the plaintiffs in similar cases, though how much of a setback remains to be seen.

The court's analysis is complicated and involves some fairly esoteric legal arguments. I'll try to avoid the fine points. In the end, the court's argument comes down to two points. The first point relates to fuels used in the United States. The court argues that by authorizing EPA to regulate carbon emissions, the Clean Air Act indirectly eliminates …

March 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber
air-pollution-power-lines-wide.jpg

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 …

March 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
SupremeCourtOverview-SCOTUSFlickr-04302-wide.jpg

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 8, 2021 by Daniel Farber
wind-solar-wide.jpg

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The COVID pandemic has provided a vivid picture of what happens when ill-prepared governments are suddenly hit with huge responsibilities. Underfunded state and local public health agencies were overwhelmed, while governors and local officials found themselves struggling to obtain and distribute vital supplies, from respirators to vaccines. Efforts to accelerate the transition away from carbon, such as a green stimulus, may run into similar problems if we neglect the agencies that will have to implement policies.

People tend to think of the energy transition in terms of wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, and charging stations for electric vehicles. That can presumably be accomplished through mandates to utilities or financial incentives. The trouble is that all of these changes have to function in connection with a power system that wasn’t built to accommodate them. That requires …

March 2, 2021 by Daniel Farber
air-pollution-power-lines-wide.jpg

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
frozen-pipe-01-wide.jpg

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 …

Feb. 1, 2021 by Daniel Farber
supreme-court-sunny-wide.jpg

CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber originally wrote this commentary for The Appeal.

Introduction

Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 was the largest civil settlement in the nation’s history and a transformative moment in the industry’s control. The accord reached by 46 states, five United States territories, and the District of Columbia required tobacco manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars annually in compensation for the public health crisis their products had created.

Today, an even bigger crisis looms, with increasing demands for accountability. Over a dozen federal cases have now been filed against oil companies, seeking damages for their role in causing climate change. With one exception, the cases have been brought by states or local governments that claim they and their citizens are suffering harm from climate change. (The exception is a case brought by Pacific Coast fishing companies for harm …

Jan. 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
USCapitol-winter-wide.jpg

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 …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
May 7, 2021

The Ninth Circuit Makes EPA an Offer It Can't Refuse

April 29, 2021

Biden and the Environment: The First 100 Days

April 5, 2021

Appeals Court Nixes New York City Climate Lawsuit

March 30, 2021

Biden's Dilemma: Limiting Carbon from Existing Power Plants

March 25, 2021

The Nondelegation Doctrine and Its Threat to Environmental Law

March 8, 2021

Institutional Capacity Building for the Energy Transition

March 2, 2021

Recalculating the Cost of Climate Change