Disaster Law

Is a Pandemic a Major Disaster?

Cuomo has asked for major disaster relief. But there’s a serious legal hurdle to that.

Yesterday, I wrote about presidential powers in a pandemic. I mentioned the possibility of declaring the pandemic a major disaster under the Stafford Act.  Today, we learned that Gov. Cuomo of New York has made such a request. [Note: two days after this was written, FEMA granted the request.] What does the law have to …

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What the Administration Failed to Learn from Past Disasters

There are some basic rules about how to respond to emergencies. They were ignored.

An epidemic and a hurricane require different responses. But the organizational challenge of confronting an emergency is a constant.  Here are some basic rules the Trump Administration failed to heed.  Ensure in advance that sufficient supplies will be quickly available.   When Hurricane Katrina hit, the government did have supplies, but they were located hundreds …

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When is a Flood a Government Taking?

Should the feds be liable for flooding during Hurricane Harvey?

A federal statute bars nearly all claims against the federal government for flooding.  Victims of flooding from Hurricane Harvey seem to have found a loophole by claiming that their property was taken without just compensation by flooding.  The facts are unusual, but the case raises some deep questions about financial responsibility for flood control. Here …

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Charting the Progress of the Latest Chapter in American Climate Change Litigation

State and Local Governments’ Common Law-Based Lawsuits Against the Energy Industry Are Steadily Gaining Traction

The latest chapter in American climate change litigation has been launched by local governments–and one state–across the U.S. against domestic and international fossil fuel companies.  These lawsuits have been brought under one of the oldest and most venerable legal doctrines–state common law.  They seek compensation from the energy industry for the myriad, adverse effects of …

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How Does Increasing Wildfire Risk Affect Insurance in California?

Affordability and Availability of Wildfire Insurance Are Less Stable Under Changing Conditions

(This post is part of a series on the issue of climate change and insurance that my colleague Ted Lamm and I are writing, inspired by a symposium that the law schools co-organized with the California Department of Insurance earlier this year. You can find more information on the symposium here. Ted’s prior related post …

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Climate Change and the Insurance Sector: An Overview

The Insurance Industry Grapples With Changing Risks in a Changing Climate

(This post is part of a series on the issue of climate change and insurance that my colleague Ted Lamm and I are writing, inspired by a symposium that the law schools co-organized with the California Department of Insurance earlier this year. You can find more information on the symposium here. Ted’s prior related post …

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Lights Out, Everybody’s Home

Protecting California’s Most Vulnerable from Climate Effects

Today, rather than walking to campus, I’m home learning the features of Zoom Conference to conduct meetings and classes remotely: UC Berkeley’s campus is shut for its second day in a row, as Pacific Gas and Electric seeks to minimize risk of a wildfire (and associated liability) in the present high wind conditions. Even as …

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The Potential Benefits of Declaring a Climate Emergency

The idea deserves serious consideration. There actually could be some very tangible benefits.

I have a confession: When I started thinking about the possibility of a climate emergency declaration, it was mostly as a counterpoint to Trump’s possible (now a done deal) declaration of an immigration emergency.  As I’ve thought about it, however, it seems to me that there are enough potential benefits to make the idea worth …

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Commemorating a Major Environmental Disaster–One With a Transformative Legacy

1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill Sparked the Beginning of America’s Modern Environmental Era

This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most serious and consequential environmental disasters in American history–the Santa Barbara offshore oil spill of 1969.  On January 28, 1969, an offshore oil rig (Platform A) owned and operated by the Union Oil Company and operating in federally-controlled waters in the Santa Barbara Channel off …

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From the Wildfire Files

Wildfires are getting worse and worse. Here’s what we know about the situation.

I don’t normally do this, but given the terrible wildfires now hitting the state, I thought it was worth doing a reprise of some posts on the subject from earlier this summer. Of course, there’s more information in the original posts, if you want to click over to them. Spreading Like Wildfire In 2017, wildfires …

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