Federal Climate Policy

The Year Ahead

Nine key developments to watch for on the environmental front.

2020 was a tumultuous year. Hopefully, 2021 will be balmier.  Widespread use of vaccines will hopefully tame the COVID-19 pandemic, and maybe the political world will settle down a bit too.  Here are nine key things to watch for in terms of environmental policy. The Georgia runoff elections. Currently, the Republicans look likely to control …

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2020: The Year in Review

Trump’s deregulatory reign of terror continued, but there were still some bright spots.

In terms of the environment, the big news was the election.  Biden swept the popular vote and won a solid victor in the Electoral College. At this point, the Republicans have retained control of the Senate, though runoff elections in Georgia could change that. On another front, US carbon emissions were down for the year, …

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Hitching a Ride on the Omnibus

In a holiday gift from Congress, environmental gains arrive in an overstuffed spending bill.

The massive omnibus bill that just passed Congress contains a bevy of environment friendly provisions.  Despite some last-minute tweeted complaints from Trump about the bill, those provisions are likely to make their way into law. Given that the Senate and the White House are in Republican hands,  it’s a wonder when such provisions sneak through …

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Passing Green Laws in a Polarized Senate

New legislation will require threading a needle in the Senate.

How polarized is the Senate?  A lot.  Consider their voting records: Every Republican except one has an environmental voting score below 25%.  Every Democrat but one has a score above 75%.  That’s a walloping fifty point gap. Given this polarization, getting energy or environmental legislation through Congress will require tremendous finesse.  That’s without even considering …

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Environmental Justice and Climate Action

Are the two in conflict? What should we make of the attacks on Mary Nichols?

Mary Nichols, the frontrunner to head EPA, was knocked out of contention earlier this week.  She would have been a formidable choice to implement Biden’s climate policies.  For that reason, it wasn’t clear whether she would have the votes to get through the narrowly divided Senate. But she was ultimately taken down by the fierce …

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Downstream Emissions

A new court ruling could doom the Trump Administration’s ANWR plan.

A Ninth Circuit ruling yesterday overturned approval of offshore drilling in the Arctic. The ruling may directly impact the Trump Administration’s plans for oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). By requiring agencies to consider emissions when fossil fuels are ultimately burned, the Court of Appeal’s decision may also change the way that …

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Bringing Back Earmarks to Save the Climate

Climate action will require overcoming the US democracy deficit.

The U.S. has a democracy deficit.  Winning national majorities isn’t enough to get majorities in Congress. This creates headwinds against climate action.  In the short-run at least, legislative earmarks might be one way to overcome the problem. The House is already planning to bring back earmarks, but the the heart of the problem is the …

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Things to be Thankful For (2020 edition)

Trump has done his best to eliminate federal protection for the environment. But there have been many positive signs.

Nearly four years into the Trump Administration, we’re now accustomed to waking up every morning to learn about a new attack on the environment.  It’s also been an awful year in terms of the pandemic. But there are some things to be thankful for. Here’s how I started a similar post in 2017, nearly a …

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Biden Can Leverage Larger Trends to Make Climate Progress

Biden can use these three strategies to make major progress on climate issues.

With the next president of the United States finally decided, we can now begin moving on to the work at hand. Joe Biden’s election creates an exciting opportunity for climate action. But there’s one clear hurdle: Unless the January runoff elections in Georgia for two Senate seats deliver surprising success to the Democrats, President-elect Biden …

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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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