Disaster Law

Temporary Takings and the Adaptation Dilemma

Current law penalizes adaptation measures because of the risk of takings liability.

Is it unconstitutional for the government to build a levee that reduces the risk of urban flooding but diverts the water to nearby farmlands?  The answer could be yes, unless the government pays for flood easements on the rural lands. But if the government doesn’t build the levee, it faces no liability from the urban …

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The ‘Year of Climate’ in International Courts

Guest contributor Rebecca Hamilton previews several opinions that touch on the question of the international legal obligations of States in light of the climate emergency.

“The Year of Climate in International Courts” by guest contributor Rebecca Hamilton was originally published on Just Security This year promises to be the ‘Year of Climate’ in international courts and tribunals with opinions slated to be coming down from the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Tribunal …

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Recentering Environmental Law: A Thought Experiment

If we had understood then what we know now. . . .

In 1965, scientists sent LBJ a memo mentioning the risks of climate change. Imagine if history had been a little different. Suppose it had been this memo and a follow-up report, rather than Rachel Carson’s attack on pesticides, that sparked the environmental movement. How would environmental law look different and how might we be thinking about …

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Climate Rides the Omnibus

An image of the U.S. Capitol Building in the evening.

The year-end law gives a boost to climate-related spending

The omnibus spending bill is by no means a “climate law.”  Because it spans the entire government, though, it has many provisions relating to climate change. They aren’t dramatic step forward. But the fact that they can pass as part of a bipartisan spending law is a sign of how climate change is slowly becoming …

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Wildfires and the Grid

Wildfires are huge problem in California. Maybe we can learn from those on the other end of the Pacific.

California and Australia are 8000 miles apart, but it turns out they have similar wildfire problems.  And in both cases, the electric grid and climate change are part of the equation.  The problems in California and the rest of the West are familiar to many readers. Though they don’t necessarily get much attention in the …

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Cost-Benefit Analysis and Deep Uncertainty

How should agencies take into account “the things we know we don’t know”?

Since 1981, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) has been at the core of the rule making process.  OIRA, the so-called “regulatory czar” in the White House, must approve every significant regulation based on a review of its CBA.  But CBA has had a major blind spot. It embodies techniques for analyzing possible harmful outcomes when the probability …

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Climate Adaptation Moves Toward Center Stage

There’s an increasing bipartisan move to fund climate resilience.

The big news today is the deal with Manchin to  provide billions of dollars of funding for clean energy. Manchin’s vote will be needed because no Republican Senator will vote for the bill.  In contrast, funding for climate resilience has drawing power even for Republicans. It seems to be true that, in Bob Dylan’s words …

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Risky Business

Climate Change and the Insurance Sector

Founded in 1871, the National Association of Insurance Commission represents insurance regulators in all fifty states. It’s not a particularly woke group – the current president is the Director of the Idaho Department of Insurance. However, the group has just issued a new “voluntary” survey for insurance companies about climate risks. “Voluntary” is in quotes …

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Wildfires, CEQA, Climate Change & the Courts

Recent Court Decisions Halt Building Projects, Invalidate CEQA Reviews for Failing to Assess Wildfire Hazards

Environmental and conservation groups have for a number of years attempted to convince California courts of the need to integrate climate change considerations into environmental analyses prepared under the state’s most important environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  However, the California judiciary has demonstrated little appetite for doing so.  Until now. Recently, courts …

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Rescuing FEMA (and ourselves)

FEMA needs to grow in order to handle its work. The need for growth will only get greater as time goes on.

2021 was a year of disasters, with extraordinary heat waves, fires, a string of hurricanes, a  cold snap that left Texas in the dark, winter tornados, and torrential rains. FEMA has been left badly overstretched. That’s an urgent problem, and it’s likely a foretaste of the future. This is not just a problem for the …

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