Disasters

Conservative Judicial Activism Strikes Again

A wild-eyed misinterpretation of the commerce clause

A federal district judge ruled today that the federal government’s moratorium on evictions is unconstitutional. The judge’s theory is that evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent isn’t an “economic” activity. Therefore, it’s beyond Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. I know that sounds nuts, but that actually it is what the judge said. The judge’s theory …

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Three Ways of Dodging Responsibility

After disaster strikes, there are some tried-and-true ways of avoiding responsibility.

In the wake of the Texas blackouts, we’re seeing a number of familiar moves to deflect blame by the usual suspects–politicians, regulators, and CEOs. These evasive tactics all begin with a core truth: Eliminating all risk is impossible and would be too expensive even if it weren’t. But then they spin that truth in various …

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How Much Should Texas Invest in Grid Resilience?

The Texas blackouts provide a case study in how to think through resilience issues.

As we begin to think through the long-term response to the Texas blackout, there’s a lot we don’t yet know.  The ultimate issues are how much resilience we need against events like this  and how we should obtain it. It’s helpful to lay out the kinds of questions we need to be asking as we …

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The Big Chill

What went wrong in Texas and what can we learn from it?

The rolling blackouts in Texas were national news. Texas calls itself the energy capital of the United States, yet it couldn’t keep the lights on. Conservatives were quick to blame reliance on wind power, just as they did last summer when California faced power interruptions due to a heat wave.  What really happened? It’s true …

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The Global Convergence of Disaster Law and Climate Law

Two very distinct areas of international law are finding more and more in common.

International climate negotiations may seem to have little to do with the work of such international relief organizations as the Red Cross. On the national level, EPA and FEMA are two very different agencies that historically have had little connection.  The same has been true at the international level.  But disaster and climate authorities are …

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 “Whole of Government” Climate Policy

We need the help of far-flung parts of the federal government to deal with climate.

President Biden will have to rely on administrative action to do much or all of the heavy lifting in climate policy. It’s clear that EPA has a central role to play in climate policy, but EPA does not stand alone. Other agencies also have important roles to play. Fortunately, the Biden transition team seems to …

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“Knocking on Our Door”: Wildfires Threaten Mt. Wilson Observatory and San Gabriel Foothill Communities

Mt. Wilson Observatory tweet

On Sept. 15, Angeles National Forest reported the Bobcat Fire was within 500 ft. of historic observatory in San Gabriel Mountains

The Bobcat fire blazing in the San Gabriel Mountains is threatening lives and homes, forcing evacuation of communities in foothills clogged with acres of brush dried out by the hottest August ever recorded in California. For flatland Angelenos like me, the fires are both omnipresent and distant, sensed only by the hazy skies and smell …

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When Republicans Supported the Environment: Bush 41

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 …

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Herd Immunity

What Could Possibly Go Wrong with Trump’s Latest Coronavirus Idea?

“Herd immunity” seems to be gaining ground in the White House as a coronavirus strategy. The idea is to protect the vulnerable population, while letting the virus run its course among the rest.  The disease then dies out because so many people are immune.  What could possibly go wrong? In theory, this idea would work, …

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Hurricanes, Wildfires, Climate Change and the Republican “Platform” and Convention

No Acknowledgment of the Biggest Environmental Existential Threat We’ve Ever Faced

Hurricane Laura is  barreling down on Louisiana and Texas, bringing with it “unsurvivable storm surges” and “life-threatening hazards” to parts of the Gulf Coast.  Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards is imploring residents to evacuate: “This is a very serious storm — I don’t think I have ever held a press conference to take something as seriously …

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