In a forgotten incident, Congress set aside Hot Springs in 190 years ago.
The origins of the national park system is usually traced back Lincoln’s 1864 signature of the Yosemite Grant Act. But Congress had actually had the idea of protecting extraordinary places over thirty years earlier, in Arkansas of all places. Hot Springs isn’t high on the list of American places to see, which may be one …CONTINUE READING
The fossil fuel industry has yet to escape its discriminatory past.
This being Black History Month, I thought it would be worthwhile looking at the fossil fuel industry’s racial history. Given the historic concentration of the oil and coal industries in the South, it is no surprise to find that these industries have also been deeply entangled with Jim Crow and its legacy of discrimination. Oil …CONTINUE READING
After many eons, reliance on combustion for energy is ending.
To head off disastrous climate change, we need to radically transform the modern energy system. We must largely move beyond the use of fire, the first and most important of inventions. The core energy technology used by humans has always involved, in one form or another, burning things up. To a large extent, combatting climate …CONTINUE READING
Some cases belong to the environmentalist legal canon, others to an anti-canon of reviled precedents.
Every field has its texts that form part of its intellectual canon, and others that form a kind of anti-canon of rejected ideas. The same is true in environmental law. The issue goes beyond which side wins. From the pro-environmental side of things, some Supreme Court rulings form guideposts to rely on, whereas others represent …CONTINUE READING
Anticipating modern environmental views, Jefferson viewed nature as a public trust.
Today being the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to think about how the author of the Declaration of Independence felt about nature. A revealing example involves some land Jefferson owned between Lexington and Roanoke, which he sought to preserve. Two years before the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land from the …CONTINUE READING
Not much for rhetoric, but a reliable vote for environmental protection.
Given Justice Breyer’s announced retirement, it seems like a good time to assess his contribution to environmental law. When Bill Clinton nominated him for the Supreme Court, there was a great deal of uneasiness among environmentalists about Justice Breyer. As an academic, he had sounded a cautious note about government regulation, calling for more deliberation …CONTINUE READING
A half century of progress in cleaning up the air began New Year’s Eve 1970.
On December 31, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. William Ruckelshaus and Russell Train, who later led the way in implementing the new law, stood by his side with beaming smiles. Nixon supported the basic features of the bill. But he had considered vetoing the final version because Senator Ed Muskie …CONTINUE READING
The GOP wasn’t always the sworn enemy of environmental protection.
Younger people today probably know about George Herbert Walker Bush (R) as the father of George W. Bush and (perhaps) as the architect of the first Iraq War. But he also had some notable environmental achievements to his credit. Here are some of his accomplishments: Air Pollution Law. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments were …CONTINUE READING
What can we learn from the climate disruptions of the previous millennium?
The Little Ice Age wasn’t actually an ice age, but it was a period of markedly colder temperatures that began in the 1200s and lasted into the mid-1800s, with the 1600s a particular low point. It was a time when London winter fairs were regularly held on the middle of a frozen Thames river, glaciers …CONTINUE READING
NEPA turns 50 today. Its passage was the beginning of modern environmental law.
Welcome to 2020. Before we start worrying about the year ahead, it’s worth taking a look backward. Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, usually called NEPA for short. When he signed NEPA into law, President Nixon said: “It is particularly fitting that my first official act in …CONTINUE READING