Air Quality

Railtown — A Different LA Story

Railtown tells the story of how rail transit came to

Ethan Elkind‘s new book, Railtown, tells the story of LA’s rail system.  It’s a fascinating account of LA’s move away from an almost religious attachment to the automobile.  The LA story has some important implications for other cities. It took several decades to get the current rail system built.  There were many detours and delays …

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Previewing Next Week’s Climate Change Arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court

Big Stakes and Big Players in This Year’s Biggest Environmental Case

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the biggest environmental law case of its current Term, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA. Legal Planet colleagues Ann Carlson and Dan Farber have already posted their thoughts on the case. Let me add mine. Utility Air Regulatory Group involves EPA’s authority to regulate stationary …

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Plain Language, Climate Change, and the Supreme Court

The language of the statute relating to next week’s argument is clear — but there’s a fly in the ointment.

The Supreme Court will be hearing argument next week in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.  It’s basically a very simple statutory interpretation case, except for two things.  First, it’s about climate change, and nothing about climate change ever seems to be simple and straightforward.  Second, although the language of the statute, prior Supreme Court precedent, …

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Lightbulb Wars : The Saga Continues

Republicans win a largely symbolic victory for an obsolete technology.

Among the sleeper provisions of the new budget deal is a ban on enforcing federal lightbulb standards.  This is a great example of symbolic politics — it makes Tea Party Republicans happy, has limited practical effect, and makes little policy sense. Or to put it another way, the enforcement ban is a dumb thing to …

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When Cooking Can Kill

Cookstoves are a major threat to health in developing countries, while also wreaking environmental damage.

Cooking dinner, as it turns out, is one of the most serious public health and environmental problems in the world. There’s a common misperception that environmental concerns are just a First World luxury.  But the cookstove example shows that the global poor, too, are in need of better, more efficient, less polluting energy sources. Here …

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Climate Standing with a Twist

Rather than prove they will be specifically harmed by increased carbon emissions, plaintiffs can use other kinds of harm as a basis for climate standing.

Plaintiffs got a Christmas present from the D.C. Circuit in the form of a pathway to prove standing in climate change cases. The Supreme Court has considered two cases dealing with standing to sue based on injuries caused by climate change.  The Court found standing in one case 5-4 and split 4-4 in the second …

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The Significance of EPA’s Proposed Power Plant Standards

Although they won’t have immediate impacts, EPA’s proposed rules for new coal plants will indirectly help shape the future of the industry.

There’s an uproar over EPA’s proposed rules for CO2 emissions from new coal plants, even though no one expects anyone to build a new coal plant for at least a decade.  I’ve argued (here and here) that the industry won’t have standing to challenge the rules because they won’t have any imminent impact.  In fact, …

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Passing Gas

A better accounting of GHGs can improve the climate discourse

The tendency to divide global GHG emissions by country is a product of the well-mixed dispersal of most of warming gases, and the international politics that attach to cross-border pollution.  A country’s emission numbers imply accountability and culpability, and frame the discourse on how to respond.  Going forward on policymaking, it’s worth looking at how …

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California cap and trade survives industry tax challenge

Auctions can proceed in one of the state’s signature climate change programs

ARB’s winning streak in climate cases continues.  A California superior court has rejected a prominent set of industry challenges to the state’s cap-and-trade program, upholding a significant element of California’s suite of programs to comply with AB 32 and to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. (Opinion here.)  The cases were filed by the …

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Standing for Coal?

In a previous post I questioned whether anyone would have standing to challenge EPA’s new plant regulations for coal plants, considering that coal plants are current uneconomical anyway due to low natural gas prices.  I was pleased that Inside EPA  wrote a story about my argument, and even more pleased that the story reported on …

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