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May 2, 2022 by Daniel Farber

Taking the Supreme Court's Temperature on Global Warming

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

Court watchers and environmentalists are waiting with bated breath for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on West Virginia v. EPA, the Court's most important climate change case in a generation. The issue in that case is what, if anything, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can do to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and factories. Last week, conservative states asked the Court to intervene in another climate change case. How the Court responds could give us hints into just how far the activist conservative majority is likely to go in the West Virginia case.

The new case is a challenge to the government's use of the social cost of carbon in making decisions about regulation. The social cost of carbon is an estimate of the harm done by the emission of a single ton of carbon. The Biden administration is preparing to issue a new estimate of the harm, which is guaranteed to be much higher than the Trump administration's estimate. Conservative states sued to stop the issuance of this new estimate.

Among other things, they argued that the estimate ran afoul of the major …

April 27, 2022 by James Goodwin
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Few policy questions have a more profound impact on our day-to-lives than how we produce, transport, and use energy. Whether it’s a fight against the siting of a polluting natural gas facility in a historically Black community, the catastrophic failure of an electric grid following a winter storm, foreign wars causing price shocks that further hollow out the fixed incomes of America’s older adults, or an abiding concern over leaving our grandchildren a habitable climate — all these issues and more make energy policy a central concern for the public.

Despite this broad-based and deep concern, the public remains largely excluded from participating in the development of energy policy — much less shaping it. Instead, corporate insiders still retain outsized influence over the energy policymaking process, leaving policymakers with a skewed perspective on issues they address through regulation, which ultimately undermines the quality and legitimacy of those …

April 12, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Trump administration left a trail of regulatory destruction behind it. Cleaning up the mess and issuing new regulations is Priority #1 for the Biden administration. Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan, the effort is beginning to pick up steam.

EPA has begun the year with several major new regulatory efforts. No one of them is transformative standing alone, but their cumulative impact will be substantially cleaner air and lower carbon emissions.

February 28. EPA proposed an unexpectedly strong expansion of the existing rules governing interstate air pollution. The proposal would strengthen existing limits for coal and gas-fired power plants, but it would also add other categories of industry such as cement. In addition, it adds western states like California to the rule's coverage. EPA estimates that the benefits of the rule …

April 5, 2022 by Jake Moore
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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) recently made a statement bashing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the East Coast's regional cap-and-trade program intended to reduce climate pollution and energy costs for low-income households. In attacking the program, Youngkin repeated questionable claims about its costs, impacts, and benefits and made clear his desire to move the Commonwealth backwards on climate policy and the clean energy transition.

Virginia joined RGGI to meet the goals outlined in the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) and Environmental Justice Act (EJA), which were passed in 2020. Funds generated through RGGI are directed toward critical energy efficiency programs for low-income households and flood prevention.

Youngkin has long expressed interest in removing Virginia from RGGI and, through his recent executive order, began his attempt to officially leave the program. The order requires the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct an analysis of the …

April 4, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration is slowly grinding away at an important regulatory task: reconsidering the air quality standards for particulates and ozone. Setting those standards is an arduous and time-consuming process, requiring consideration of reams of technical data. For instance, a preliminary staff report on fine particulates (PM2.5) is over 600 pages long. When the process is done, the result will not only be better protection of public health. It will also be a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming agents.

Quick legal background: The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set national ambient air quality standards or NAAQS (pronounced "knacks"). They are supposed to be set at a level that, "allowing an adequate margin of safety, are requisite to protect the public health." They're supposed to be revised every five …

March 15, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

On March 11, there were two seismic shocks in the world of gas pipeline regulation. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has spent years resisting pressure to change the way it licenses new gas pipelines. The whole point of a natural gas pipeline is to deliver the gas to users who will burn it, thereby releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. FERC has steadfastly refused to take those emissions into account. The D.C. Circuit held that position illegal in an opinion released last Friday. That same day, by coincidence, FERC published guidelines in the Federal Register explaining how it proposed to consider those emissions.

The D.C. Circuit opinion followed up on previous rulings but left no room for doubt about the court's position. The case involved a minor pipeline upgrade by the Tennessee Natural …

March 8, 2022 by David Driesen
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Arguments and judicial reasoning in administrative law cases usually focus on the case at hand. Indeed, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) commands that narrow focus. The APA does not give the courts any role in shaping the laws governing administrative agencies, for that is what Congress does. Instead, it gives the courts a modest, albeit difficult responsibility: They may determine whether a particular agency action is arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law. Therefore, parties challenging an agency rule they disapprove of generally argue that the agency has violated some restraint stated in the statute or exercised its discretion in an arbitrary way.

But in the U.S. Supreme Court case heard last week about the scope of EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (West Virginia v. EPA), coal companies relied heavily on a "parade of horribles" argument — a listing of bad things that …

March 4, 2022 by Karen Sokol
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Last fall, on the same day that the parties to the Paris Agreement gathered in Glasgow for their first day of their annual international climate meeting, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review an appellate court decision about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases from fossil fuel power plants under the Clean Air Act.

Fast forward half a year: On February 28, the day that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change issued its sobering report on climate adaptation and harms to human and planetary well-being, the court heard oral arguments in the case—West Virginia v. EPA.

Once again, it was a split-screen reality.

In reaction to the report, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres stated, "Today's IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership …

Feb. 24, 2022 by Noah Sachs
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After the Supreme Court’s decision last month rejecting the Biden vaccine mandate for large employers, it wasn’t just the public health community that was asking “where do we go from here?” Environmental activists and attorneys immediately recognized that the Court’s reasoning in the vaccine case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, will likely lead to a win for the fossil fuel industry in the biggest environmental case of this term, West Virginia v. EPA.

On the surface, the vaccine case and West Virginia appear to involve totally different issues. NFIB was a challenge to an emergency regulation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that required large employers to either verify COVID-19 vaccinations or compel their employees to wear masks and get tested. In a 6-3 decision, with the three liberals …

Feb. 23, 2022 by Allison Stevens
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A native of southeast Los Angeles, Laura Cortez was exposed to a heavy dose of toxic pollution as a child. She grew up near an oil refinery, industry warehouses, and railroad tracks, with trains barreling through at all hours of the night. Her elementary school was located near a major highway — a passthrough for tens of thousands of trucks every day — and her high school was also sited next to train tracks. 

Now co-executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a grassroots advocacy group, Cortez is working to protect residents of her community and others in the region from the harmful effects of pollution on health and well-being. She shared her story last week with members of Congress to call attention to environmental racism and build support for landmark legislation that would begin to address it. 

“My reality is not an exception,” she told members …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
May 2, 2022

Taking the Supreme Court's Temperature on Global Warming

April 27, 2022

New Report: Democratizing Our Regulatory System Is More Important Than Ever. Can FERC Lead the Way?

April 12, 2022

Regan Hits His Stride

April 5, 2022

Virginia's Youngkin Didn't Major in Environmental Economics

April 4, 2022

Pollution Control as Climate Policy

March 15, 2022

Pipelines, Emissions, and FERC

March 8, 2022

Parading the Horribles in Administrative Law: Some Thoughts on the Oral Argument in West Virginia v. EPA