Regulation

Wildfires, CEQA, Climate Change & the Courts

Recent Court Decisions Halt Building Projects, Invalidate CEQA Reviews for Failing to Assess Wildfire Hazards

Environmental and conservation groups have for a number of years attempted to convince California courts of the need to integrate climate change considerations into environmental analyses prepared under the state’s most important environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  However, the California judiciary has demonstrated little appetite for doing so.  Until now. Recently, courts …

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Everyday Christmas: The Gift of the Commons

Clean air. Clean water. We receive these public goods every day without payment

One of the Christmas classics is the Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey, Stewart’s character, is despondent about his life but then learns how much he has unknowingly helped others and how grateful they are. It’s heartwarming, if also a bit corny. There’s a flip side to that story: the need to remember …

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The Renaissance of Energy Law

An esoteric field of law has become exciting and important.

Energy law used to be an obscure niche subject. It was devoted to subjects like oil and gas leases, the proper inflation adjustments in utility rates, and depreciation schedules for power plants. Utilities were famously set in their ways, using nineteenth century technologies to produce and deliver their products. Only specialists really paid much attention. …

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Aggregating the Harms of Fossil Fuels

They’re even worse than you probably thought.

The decision at the Glasgow climate conference to phase down fossil fuels is an important step forward — and not just because of climate change.  We think of fossil fuels as a source of climate change, but that’s only a one part of the problem. From their extraction to their combustion, everything about them is …

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Major Questions About the Major Questions Doctrine

You may not have heard of this doctrine but it’s a big threat to innovative regulations.

Unless you’re deeply immersed in administrative law, you may not have heard of the major questions doctrine. It’s a legal theory that conservative judges have used with increasing rigor to block important regulatory initiatives.  The doctrine places special obstacles on agency regulations of issues of “major economic and political significance.” In its initial outing, the …

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The Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat

Yes, there actually is one. It’s in Reykjavík. And here’s why it’s worth pondering.

Working away in anonymity, a cadre of civil servants keeps the machinery of government working.  There’s actually a monument in Reykjavík, Iceland to these public servants. It shows someone in a business suit carrying a briefcase — or more specifically, the lower half of the person, with the upper half replaced by a block of …

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Reforming the California Endangered Species Act

Updating the state’s landmark biodiversity law for the twenty-first century

California has a rich heritage of biodiversity, with many species found nowhere else in the world (including the iconic giant sequoia trees).  But California’s biodiversity faces grave threats – pressures from development that eliminates habitat; water shortages that harm aquatic species in California’s rivers; and climate change impacts that are shifting and altering habitats, among …

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Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

Even if we miss our targets, simply shaving or flattening the carbon curve would be worth fighting for.

Although lacking the same eloquence, today’s post is in the spirit of Churchill’s famous speech promising that Britain would “fight on the beaches, … we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” My point is this: No matter how many battles we end up losing in the fight to stop carbon emissions, we …

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California Enacts Historic Housing Reform Laws

Legislation Promotes New Housing, Infill Development, & Reduced Air Pollution

The California Legislature recently enacted, and Governor Gavin Newsom last week signed into law, two major housing reform measures.  SB 9 and SB 10 represent California’s most transformative new housing laws in decades, and are a belated but welcome legislative response to the state’s longstanding housing crisis. SB 9, authored by California State Senate leader …

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The Last Four Years — and the Next Four

How did our predictions about Trump hold up? What should we expect for Biden?

In September 2017, Eric Biber and I published a threat assessment after the first 200 days of the Trump Administration. For those who have buried their memories of that time, those were days of shock and despair about the future of environmental protection (and much else). It seems time to bring our report up to …

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