Administrative Law

50 Years Ago: Environmental Law in 1973

Five decades back, the country was in the midst of unprecedented environmental ferment.

1973 was at the crest of the environmental surge that swept the United States half a century ago.  In the previous three years, Congress had passed NEPA, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. The first EPA Administrator took office in 1971. Continuing the legislative wave, 1973 saw the passage of the Endangered …

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Whose Major Questions Doctrine?

There are two versions of the doctrine. One of them is more dangerous.

When it  struck down Obama’s signature climate regulation in West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court formally adopted the major questions doctrine as a way to synthesize prior anti-regulatory rulings.  The major questions doctrine (MQD to insiders) has gotten a lot of attention. One thing that’s been overlooked, however, is that there are two versions …

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Learning to Name Environmental Problems

It was only in the 1960s that the Supreme Court learned to talk about “pollution” and “wilderness.”

There are Supreme Court cases going back a century or more dealing with what we would now consider environmental issues such as preserving nature or air pollution. But when did the Court start seeing filthy rivers and smokey cities as embodiments of the same problem, despite their striking physical differences?  And when it did start …

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 10 Most Important Environmental Law Decisions of 2022

Climate Change, Water Rights, Environmental Justice & Federalism Issues Highlighted the Ninth Circuit’s Prodigious Environmental Docket This Year

I’ve shared in previous posts my view that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is–after the U.S. Supreme Court–the most influential court in the nation when it comes to environmental and natural resources law.  That’s true for two related reasons: first, the sprawling Ninth Circuit encompasses nine different states (including California) and …

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Keep on Trucking

A new rule will clean up exhaust from new diesels, a major health threat.

Last week, EPA finalized its new rule imposing emission limits on new heavy trucks. The new regulation was clearly a massive undertaking. EPA’s formal announcement of the new rule is 1100 pages long. The accompanying summary of comments on the proposed rule and EPA’s responses is another 2000 pages. This is partly due to the …

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A Great Victory For Electric Cars

But Beware: Neanderthal GOP Judges Are Waiting To Strike It Down

With all the attention being paid to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, and the release of the January 6th Committee, you might have missed the (second) most important environmental story of the week: The U.S. Postal Service will buy 66,000 vehicles to build one of the largest electric fleets in the nation, Biden administration officials …

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Concealing Plutocracy

California’s battles over rooftop solar obscure the real culprits: Gavin Newsom and Silicon Valley billionaires

The LA Times’ inestimable Sammy Roth reports on the attempt of California’s investor-owned utilities to end “net metering,” whereby utilities must pay customers with rooftop solar for their excess electricity. Roth has been highly skeptical of the utilities’ drive: it’s an age of climate crisis, and the state’s Public Utilities Commission is going to reduce …

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Coordinating Climate Policy

We have a White House climate czar. That’s not going to be enough.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) creates a massive funding program for clean energy and other climate policies. This funding complements regulatory efforts at EPA elsewhere.  Yet authority over energy policy is fragmented at the federal level. Without better coordination, there’s a risk that various policies will mesh poorly or operate at cross-purposes. And state governments, …

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California’s Secret Weapon: The Scoping Plan

There’s no substitute for a comprehensive policy vision.

The scoping process has been key to California’s success in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  The process requires the government to assess past progress, project future emissions, and come up with a strategy to meet its climate goals.  In contrast, in many states – and at the federal level – there’s no real mechanism for a …

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Happy 50th Anniversary, Federal Clean Water Act

One of America’s Foundational Environmental Laws Has Proven Transformational, But Requires Updating a Half-Century Later

The Clean Water Act (CWA), one of the nation’s most important environmental laws, is 50 years old today.  It’s proven to be one of the most successful of America’s bedrock federal environmental statutes.  But the CWA is far from perfect, needs some important updating, and will probably never fully achieve the aspirational goals Congress proclaimed …

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