Administrative Law

Short and Simple Climate Legislation

With a few sentences, Congress could do a lot to fix the law.

The last time Congress tried to pass climate change legislation, the bill was about 800 pages long. That bill, the Waxman-Markey Act, tried to adopt a comprehensive set of emissions reduction measures, which is a complicated business.  But a much simpler law could allow the U.S. to move forward quickly with less ambitious but still …

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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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Toxic Releases? Botched Drug Trials? — Not a Problem, in this Administration

The Trump Administration has essentially dropped enforcement of environmental laws and clinical trial requirements.

The easiest way to gut regulations is simply to stop enforcing them. That tried and true technique has been enthusiastically embraced by the Trump Administration.  That’s been long suspected in terms of environmental law. Shockingly, the Administration has also mostly given up on enforcing the standards for conducting clinical drug trials. The breakdown in FDA …

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40 Legal Scholars Urge EPA to Withdraw Proposed Ozone NAAQS

EPA’s newest ozone rulemaking has failed to meet even the deferential standard of arbitrary and capricious review.

This blog is co-authored with Sean Hecht. On October 1, 2020, on behalf of 40 environmental and administrative law scholars affiliated with 33 universities in 18 states, Sean Hecht and I filed a comment letter urging EPA to withdraw its decision to keep the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone at the current …

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Barrett on Standing & Judicial Deference

Her mentor was Scalia, but her style is more like Souter.

With the help of my research assistant, I’ve collected cases by Judge Barrett dealing with standing issues and deference to administrative agencies.  Both topics are very relevant to the environment.al crisis. You really can’t draw firm conclusions about her views on these doctrines, but you can draw conclusions about her style.  She sticks close to …

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Should a New Congress Use a Deeply Flawed Law to Cancel Trump’s Regulations?

The Congressional Review Act was Newt Gingrich’s brainchild. It should be repealed.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA), part of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America”, slumbered for many years in obscurity. Then, in 2017, Congress dusted it off and used it to kill fifteen Obama administration regulations. I’m not the first to ask whether there should be payback if the White House and Senate change hands. There are …

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The Kavanaugh Court and the Environment

A new appointment would make Justice Kavanaugh the swing voter.  Here’s what that would mean for environmental law.

A new appointment by Trump would shift the Supreme Court well to the right, making Brett Kavanaugh the swing voter in many cases. Kavanaugh has clear views about the powers of agencies like EPA. With him as the swing voter, the main strategy used by Obama to make environmental progress would be off limits for …

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Pandemic Lessons in Governance

What have we learned about dealing with mega-risks?

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home some lessons about governance. Those lessons have broader application — for instance, to climate governance.  We can’t afford for the federal government to flunk Crisis Management 101 again. Here are five key lessons: 1. Effective leadership from the top is indispensable. Major problems require action by …

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Enforcing NEPA’s Forgotten Mandate

The courts have failed to enforce a core requirement of NEPA. That leaves the White House.

The Democrats have adopted an ambitious platform for environmental protection, full of innovative legislative initiatives.  Here’s another idea Biden and Harris should consider, making use of the oldest of the modern environmental statutes. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is best known for requiring environmental impact statements. While they have enforced that requirement, the courts …

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Climate Litigation 2020

Here’s the state of play and some thoughts about the future.

Trump Administration has been a fertile source of litigation. With the election only about three months away, this seems like a good time to see how things stand in climate-related case.  In a nutshell, climate litigation has been a growth industry under Trump, and the Administration has done poorly in court. The Current State of …

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