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April 4, 2022 by Daniel Farber

Pollution Control as Climate Policy

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 years based on new science, though EPA has tended to fall beyond schedule. The Trump administration decided that the existing standards are just fine, but Biden directed EPA to reconsider.

It seems pretty clear that the current PM2.5 standard is too high. Averaged over a year, the current standard limits emissions to …

March 16, 2022 by Catalina Gonzalez
Sacramento California capitol building

This is the first post in a series on climate justice in California.

State officials in California are leading an extensive multisector planning effort to develop the 2022 Scoping Plan, the third update to California’s climate mitigation strategy. The new plan will outline a pathway for statewide action toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions (i.e., carbon neutrality) no later than 2045.

California first established its distinctive planning approach for developing coordinated emissions reduction measures that also advance the state’s other climate and environmental justice goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 (AB32).

AB32 also established the first statewide emissions target limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and charged the California Air Resources Board (CARB) with developing and adopting a new scoping plan every five years. The first scoping plan was developed in …

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 …

Jan. 26, 2022 by Karen Sokol
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On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the first of an expected wave of cases challenging governmental action to address the climate crisis. The court’s grant of four petitions seeking review in this case—two by coal companies and two by states—portends that the six conservative justices will erect significant barriers to meaningful climate policy and will continue to interfere with democratic governance in disregard of the rule of law.

The issue presented in the case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, concerns the EPA’s authority to regulate pursuant to its mandate in the Clean Air Act. Oddly, there’s no regulation in effect for the court to review; instead, it will ostensibly review the interpretation of the act adopted by the Obama administration nearly a decade ago, which gave the EPA the …

Jan. 13, 2022 by Sandra Zellmer
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A global movement is underway to protect 30 percent of the Earth's lands and waters by 2030. More than seventy countries support this goal to combat climate change and slow the pace of species extinction, both of which are accelerating at an unprecedented rate. The two threats are closely intertwined. The greatest drivers of species extinction are climate change and habitat loss; by the same token, the loss of intact, functioning habitat and biodiversity diminishes the capacity for climate resilience.

In the United States, one of President Biden's earliest executive orders, issued in his first week in office, established a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and water and 30 percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030. The order proclaims an "all of government" approach to …

Dec. 9, 2021 by Darya Minovi
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The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) joined Coming Clean and more than 100 organizations calling for major transformations to the chemical industry — a significant yet overlooked contributor to the climate crisis and toxic pollution in communities.

The groups unveiled new guidance this week for regulators, policymakers, advocates, and industry to phase out chemicals and their adverse impacts. The guidance – contained in the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals – was first developed in 2004 by grassroots, labor, health, and environmental justice groups and updated this year to strengthen recommendations as the climate changes.

The updated charter includes 10 planks, or priority areas, alongside reports highlighting policy solutions to phase out persistent, toxic, and cumulative chemical pollution. CPR contributed to the background report for Plank #1, which calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), policymakers, and businesses to address the chemical and petrochemical industry’s contributions to climate …

CPR HOMEPAGE
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