Litigation

Yes, there’s a difference between “endangered” and “threatened” species

Federal district court tells FWS its discretion to choose the less protected designation has limits

A recent ruling from the federal District Court in DC provides an important  lesson that the US Fish and Wildlife Service would do well to heed: the agency has limited discretion to find that species are threatened rather than endangered. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), species can be listed as either endangered (“in danger …

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Can the Center Hold?

The Challenge to Mainstream Environmentalism

Is environmentalism facing a paradigm shift? Since the 1970s, mainstream environmentalists, lawyers, and scholars have sought incremental progress based on established law and political realities. But frustration with that approach is palpable. The face of climate advocacy is now seventeen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg rather than Establishment politician Al Gore. And there is growing frustration with …

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Deciding a Climate Case in the Shadow of the Supreme Court

Juliana Judges Surely Had The Higher Court in Mind in Drafting Their Decision

The irony of the Ninth Circuit decision dismissing the Juliana v. United States  case this week is plain to see. Two branches of government — the legislative and executive –  have failed to act to address an environmental problem that may cause the destruction of the federal government itself.  The third branch, the judiciary, recognizes the …

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Juliana and the Future of Climate Litigation

Asking judges to pass judgment on all U.S. energy policy was a bridge too far.

The Ninth Circuit threw out the Juliana litigation this morning.  The two judges in the majority basically said,  legalistic language, that you can’t get the Green New Deal by court order. It was wrong for the Supreme Court to step in at the last minute to put the trial on hold, rather than giving the …

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Commemorating the National Environmental Policy Act’s 50th Anniversary

Celebrating NEPA: America’s Most Transformative, Overarching & Catalytic Environmental Law

On a snowy New Year’s Day in 1970–50 years ago today–then-President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act.  NEPA’s passage marked the beginning of America’s modern environmental law era.  It  was followed by Congressional passage of a series of other federal environmental laws over the next decade–major statutes that to this day …

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Threat Assessment: The Supreme Court & the Environment

The current bench is tilted against environmental regulation. It could get worse.

In September, Take Back the Court issued a study entitled, “The Roberts Court Would Likely Strike Down Climate Change Legislation.”  In my view, that’s too alarmist. But the current conservative majority definitely will be an obstacle to aggressive use of government regulation.  That could hold true well into the 2030s, depending on who leaves the …

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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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Netherlands’ Supreme Court Demands More Emissions Cuts

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However, today’s ruling will likely have little direct impact

Today the Netherlands’ supreme court sided with an environmental organization and ruled that the Dutch government has an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more aggressively. This is being widely praised by environmentalists and others concerned about climate change.  However, this historic ruling will likely have little impact on actual emissions, at least directly. At …

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Greenhouse Gas Regulations Under the Clean Air Act Are Doomed

Will Kavanaugh Use the Major Questions Doctrine or the Non-Delegation Doctrine to Scrap Them?

The Democratic candidates all have bold plans to attack climate change but face an obvious problem: Congress. Unless the Democrats take the Senate and the Presidency while retaining the House, and unless the Democrats abolish the filibuster, it’s hard to imagine Congress passing comprehensive climate legislation (and even then getting legislation through will be a …

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