One of the most important issues in modern environmental law and policy is the extent to which constitutionally-protected property rights limit environmental regulatory programs at the federal, state and local levels. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has focused more attention on this question over the last four decades than any other aspect of modern environmental […]
Docket so far limited to a significant takings case, Murr v. Wisconsin
So far, the docket for the U.S. Supreme Court’s term beginning in October includes no significant statutory environmental case. It does include an important takings case that could limit or expand the land use powers of all levels of government to protect wetlands, endangered species habitat, and other ecologically sensitive parcels. Whether the Court ultimately […]
$14.7 Billion Civil Enforcement Settlement is a Victory for Consumers, Environmental Prosecutors
Federal and state environmental prosecutors today announced a proposed settlement of government civil enforcement litigation they’ve pursued against Volkswagen in response to the automaker’s acknowledged efforts to cheat federal and state auto emission standards and defraud consumers. The complex settlement, lodged with the assigned U.S. district court judge in San Francisco, requires Volkswagen to pay […]
A non-environmental case opens the door to new arguments about standing.
One of the recurring questions in standing law is the extent to which Congress can change the application of the standing doctrine. A recent Supreme Court opinion in a non-environmental case sheds some light – not a lot, but some – on this recurring question. The Court has made it clear that there is a […]
Enforcement of environmental laws is spotty. But there are ways to change that.I
As I wrote earlier this week, environmental enforcement is not nearly as effective as it should be. EPA and others have been working on finding creative ways of obtaining compliance, often with the help of new technology. One aspect of enforcement that has become clear is the need to focus on small, dispersed sources that may […]
Environmental enforcement could use a big boost.
The political debate over regulation tends to focus on the regulations themselves. But enforcing the regulations is just as important. Despite what you might think from the howls of business groups and conservative commentators, the enforcement system is not nearly as strong as it should be. Twenty years after passage of the Clean Water Act, roughly […]
Supreme Court allows lawsuits early in Clean Water Act permitting process, as Justice Kennedy ominously questions the Act’s reach
The Supreme Court today dealt another blow to the Obama administration in a Clean Water Act case. The Court’s unanimous opinion in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., No. 15-290, addressed the finality of an Army Corps “approved jurisdictional determination” (JD) on whether a particular parcel of property contains “waters of the […]
Could an old property procedure be a model for climate-related litigation?
From time to time, there is talk about giving standing to future generations. Although this is an idea whose time may not have come in the U.S., it’s important to know that the law has for many, many years allowed appointment of lawyers to represent future individuals. Typically, this is a procedure that is used in […]
Agency rulemaking is limited in ways that are far different from legislative lawmaking.
It’s commonplace to say that agencies engage in lawmaking when they issue rules. Conservatives denounce this as a violation of the constitutional scheme; liberals celebrate it as an instrument of modern government. Both sides agree that in reality, though not in legal form, Congress has delegated its lawmaking power to agencies. But this is mistaking […]
New Berkeley Law report examines citizen actions addressing sanitary sewer overflows in California
(This post is co-authored with Nell Green Nylen and Michael Kiparsky.) Every day, Californians produce millions of gallons of wastewater. We tend to avoid thinking about what flows down our drains, but how we deal with sewage is a critically important aspect of public and environmental health. Most communities in California rely on an extensive […]