Some thoughts for Environmental History Week.
An international agreement in 1992 committed the world’s nations to addressing climate change but contained few specifics. The US ratified that agreement, but there was little concrete action here through the end of the 20th Century. As this century began, things looked optimistic, with both presidential candidates favoring reductions in carbon emissions. Promptly after taking …CONTINUE READING
“The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Return of the Jedi”? Either is possible on Election Day.
We’re now a year away from Election Day, but things are already starting to heat up. And the outcome couldn’t be more important. The next election could transform U.S. environmental policy, for better or worse. A GOP trifecta in 2024 would put Trump in the White House with GOP control of Congress. That would be …CONTINUE READING
A tale that should send shivers down your back.
Given that Halloween is tomorrow, here’s a frighting story– the tale of what a Trump victory would mean for the future climate. Would a Trump victory be the end of the world? That might be an overstatement. But the result would surely be a surge in carbon emissions, dooming us to even more severe climate …CONTINUE READING
Mostly, they didn’t want to talk about the issue. They certainly didn’t want to talk about solutions.
Somewhat to my surprise, there was a question at the first GOP debate about climate change. The candidates’ pre-debates views, which the NY Times helpfully collected, provided insight into possible directions for GOP energy policy. It’s even possible that reality has started to make a dent into the party;’s reflexive climate denial. The climate question …CONTINUE READING
Regulations have some sticking power, even when the White House changes hands.
The Trump Administration’s massive campaign against government regulation was horrifying at the time and depressing in retrospect. Many people have been left with doubts about whether it’s even worthwhile to bother with new regulations, given the risk of a switch in control of the White House. I don’t question Trump’s regulatory carnage. But Obama’s achievements …CONTINUE READING
Ironically, a conservative legal doctrine might block some of his excesses.
Trump hasn’t been at all secretive about plans for a possible second term. He has plans, big plans. So big, in fact, that they may collide with a conservative judicial rule called the Major Question Doctrine (MQD). Since the Court has mostly used the MQD to block initiatives by Democratic presidents, it would be more …CONTINUE READING
The new NEPA amendments weren’t intended to speed up the process. But they’ll also spark new litigation.
The Interior Department has a rule that environmental review isn’t required for a prescribed fire of 4,500 acres, subject to restrictions that aren’t relevant here. Prior law authorized this kind of regulation but also required the agency to consider whether a particular fire involved exceptional circumstances, such as being next to a wilderness area. After …CONTINUE READING
What are the environmental impacts of Uncle Sam’s failure to pay his debts on time?
A journalist asked me how a default might impact environmental law. As I thought about it, I realized that the answers were, “In one way, very little,” and “In another way, potentially a disaster.” The effects might not amount to much. Or we could be talking about multigenerational climate impacts. There’s a lot of uncertainty …CONTINUE READING
Justices Decline to Intervene in Government Lawsuits Seeking Damages from Fossil Fuel Industry
This week the U.S. Supreme Court gave state and local governments a big–if preliminary–legal win against the fossil fuel industry. The justices declined to take up numerous cases in which government entities have sued oil, gas and coal companies, seeking compensation for the climate change-related damage the jurisdictions they claim to have suffered, and which …CONTINUE READING
Coal is a dirty fuel. It’s not just air pollution or climate change.
EPA proposed new regulations next week to reduce the water pollution impacts of coal-fired power plants. As EPA regulations go, these count as fairly minor. They got a bit of news coverage in coal country and industry publications. But they will eliminate the discharge of thousands of tons of pollutants, including a lot of metals …CONTINUE READING