administrative law

When Agencies Fail  

Lives can be lost when agencies fall down on the job.

What happens when agencies fail in their jobs? People can die. The most dramatic example is the opioid crisis, in which a whole series of state and federal agencies fell short.  The result has been hundreds of thousands of deaths. The FDA was one of the prime culprits. It bought into a myth, carefully cultivated …

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The Last Four Years — and the Next Four

How did our predictions about Trump hold up? What should we expect for Biden?

In September 2017, Eric Biber and I published a threat assessment after the first 200 days of the Trump Administration. For those who have buried their memories of that time, those were days of shock and despair about the future of environmental protection (and much else). It seems time to bring our report up to …

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Vacancy

A Key White House regulatory office has remained unfilled for a record time.

The Biden Administration is looking to make big regulatory changes, not least regarding climate change. Yet the White House office overseeing regulations is vacant. The obscurely named Office of Regulatory Affairs and Information (OIRA) has to sign off on all significant regulations. Even the dilatory Donald Trump had nominated a permanent administrator by July of …

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Another Worrisome Signal from the Supreme Court

Phrases that should frighten environmentalists: “Shadow docket ” “Major questions doctrine”

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the CDC eviction moratorium in the Alabama Association of Realtors case. The case may seem far removed from environmental law, but it has some troubling implications for future EPA regulatory initiatives. The process used by the Supreme Court to intervene is as significant as the ruling itself. This …

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The Ongoing Tension over Stormwater Discharges in Los Angeles

Upcoming hearings on a proposed new MS4 permit will set the stage for the future of water quality throughout LA County

[Disclosure: The Frank G. Wells Environmental Clinic at UCLA School of Law is representing Los Angeles Waterkeeper on matters related to the subject of this post. I will shortly be joining Los Angeles Waterkeeper as a Staff Attorney. However, like all other Legal Planet posts, this post reflects only my own views and opinions.] The …

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The Regulatory Process: FAQs

Here’s an explainer on how federal regulations get issued and reviewed by courts.

Even most lawyers, let alone the rest of the population, are a bit fuzzy on how the regulatory system works.  As the Biden Administration is gearing up to start a slew of regulatory proceedings, here’s what you need to know about the process. Issuing Regulations Q:  Where do agencies like EPA get the power to …

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Expertise versus Politics Under Biden

Experts will no longer be pariahs under Biden. But will their voices be heard?

One of the abiding issues in governance is the balance between democratic leadership and experts.  We don’t want government solely by technocrats.  Nor do we want government steered solely by ideology and politics, as under Trump.  Biden will be a vast improvement, but there’s still some question about whether he’ll get the balance right. I …

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Rethinking Presidential Administration

Giving the President more control of regulation has been a good thing — up to a point.

Conservatives love to complain about faceless bureaucrats, but blaming bureaucrats for regulations is hopelessly out of date.  When Elena Kagan was a professor, she wrote an article called “Presidential Administration.”  The article applauded her former boss Bill Clinton for seizing greater control of the regulatory process away from agencies. That trend has accelerated to the …

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Restoring Agency Norms

It’s not just the White House. We also have to repair the way agencies operate.

Donald Trump prided himself on his contempt for established norms of presidential action. Whole books have been written about how to restore those norms. Something similar also happened deeper down in the government, out in the agencies like EPA that do the actual work of governance. Trump appointees have corrupted agencies and trashed the norms …

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Taming Textualism: A Guide for Environmental Lawyers

How to Argue Cases to Conservative Judges

Textualism is the dominant method of interpreting statutes among conservative judges.  It purports to base interpretation on the “ordinary meaning” of the statutory language. This approach ignores traditional tools of statutory interpretation like considering what was actually said in Congress. Ignoring what Congress actually intended seems odd to me. Still, lawyers have to make arguments …

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