The Pull of Energy Markets -- and Legal Challenges -- Will Blunt Plans to Roll Back EPA Carbon Rules

by Hannah Wiseman | October 17, 2017

Professor Hari Osofsky of Pennsylvania State University co-authored this article with Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Florida State University College of Law Professor Hannah Wiseman. It originally appeared in The Conversation on October 13, 2017.

On Oct. 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, regulation intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. 

This follows a directive only a week earlier by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for the the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to start a process to essentially subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. 

At first blush, these developments give the impression that the U.S. power sector is about to take a dramatic turn, and these decisions do indeed represent a significant shift in U.S. policy. But major changes on the ground are unlikely to happen overnight, or perhaps even in the next several years, for many reasons. Topping the list are legal challenges and simply the way competitive energy markets work. 

Headwinds from natural gas, wind and solar 

Legally, the Clean Power Plan repeal is already facing a challenge. The same day as its demise was announced, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman responded that he would lead a coalition of states and localities in a lawsuit defending the Clean Power Plan. 

Unless the Trump administration replaces the Clean Power Plan with something that addresses greenhouse emissions adequately, its decision is ...

Foreseeable Yet Lamentable: Pruitt's Attack on Carbon Restrictions

by Daniel Farber | October 10, 2017
An earlier version of this post appeared on Legal Planet. Few things were more foreseeable than the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The administration was never going to leave in place a regulation that disfavored coal and promoted the use of renewable energy in electricity generation. The only real questions were when and how. Today, the administration is taking the first step with the release of a proposed rule repealing the CPP. EPA is relying wholly ...

Under the Radar: What States Are Doing about Energy and Climate

by Daniel Farber | October 04, 2017
What happens in Washington gets a lot of attention. You probably also follow what's going on in your own state. But it's very hard to know what's happening in states across the country. In an effort to get a better sense of that, I've explored state activity on climate change and energy in a series of posts. This wasn't a fifty-state survey, or even a statistically valid random sample. But it does indicate what's happening in a range of states, ...

Houston Chronicle Op-Ed: Burying Our Head in Sand on Climate Change No Longer an Option

by Victor Flatt | September 29, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Houston Chronicle. Every day during the Hurricane Harvey disaster, our hearts would sink as we kept hearing the word "unprecedented" again and again. Harvey wasn't supposed to strengthen so fast; it shouldn't have stalled where it did. Every day as we hoped the worst was over, Harvey would pummel us even harder. Everything was outside the norm, breaking all records. Over 50 inches of rain. Houston's "wettest month in recorded history." High river marks exceeded ...

Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Preparing for Hurricanes Should Not Fall to Ratepayers

by Matt Shudtz | September 20, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun. The full scope of the heartbreaking devastation wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma — the human, economic and environmental toll — may not be completely understood for years. As we do what we can to help the victims, it is also time to think about how we can prepare for the inevitable here in Baltimore. After all, Baltimore floods more than most other cities in the United States and gets little help ...

As Irma Hits Florida, Trump's Risk Is Different from His Neighbors'

by David Flores | September 09, 2017
As Hurricane Irma takes aim at the Florida coast, questions about property and community vulnerabilities abound, including for some of President Donald Trump's properties. A brief analysis by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has found that while Trump's properties, including Mar-a-Lago, face significant risk of damage from the hurricane and from the ongoing impacts of climate change, surrounding neighborhoods and communities will have a much more difficult time rebuilding and recovering from the storm.  Three Trump developments in South ...

Trump Administration Policies Will Make Americans More Vulnerable to Toxic Floodwaters

by David Flores | August 30, 2017
As the country bears witness to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, a storm unlike any other, the Trump administration's policy of rolling back worker, emergency response, and environmental safeguards will all but ensure that victims of future flooding events will be exposed to toxic contamination. Over just a 36-hour period, an estimated 9 trillion gallons of rainwater deluged Texas, affecting millions and displacing tens of thousands along the Gulf Coast and in Houston. As the rainfall and flooding wear on this week, emergency ...

As Texas Floods, President Trump Backpedals on Resiliency

by Alice Kaswan | August 28, 2017
With a sense of horror, the nation is watching waters rise in southeastern Texas as now-Tropical Storm Harvey spins across the Gulf Coast. While no individual storm can be attributed to climate change, scientists predict more intense storms, and the wisdom of preparing for future floods has never been clearer. And yet, less than two weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order that rolled back a federal flood standard designed to anticipate intense flooding. Instead of investing in infrastructure ...

Law Professors from Every Coast Ask SCOTUS to Weigh in on Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Case

by Matt Shudtz | August 23, 2017
Last week, more than two dozen law professors from around the country – many of them CPR Member Scholars – filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging a fresh look at a lower court decision with sweeping implications for the balance of power between states and the federal government. The issue is vital to Louisiana because it affects whether oil and gas companies can be held liable for decades of damage they have done to the state's ...

Trump's Deregulatory Agenda Is an Assault on Climate-Threatened Communities

by David Flores | July 27, 2017
Late last week, we shared our first take on how the Trump administration's 2017 deregulatory agenda threatens to knock the wheels off of agency efforts to protect workers, consumers, and vulnerable populations – like children and homeless families – from air pollution, flooding, and explosions in the workplace, among other hazards. After some additional research, we have also found that the administration's agenda takes aim at safeguards for victims of disasters, such as communities that face the threat of displacement ...

Combating Climate Change and Health Risks through a Carbon Fee

by Amro Ali | July 06, 2017
No one is safe from the effects of climate change. That's the key takeaway from a March report by nearly a dozen highly respected medical organizations that studied the link between climate change and risks to our health. And these aren't far-off impacts or theoretical dangers: human-driven climate change is already making people sick. Here's just one example: A woman in southwestern Pennsylvania who had never heard of Lyme disease saw five of her friends contract the illness in recent ...

As Waters Rise, Trump Wants to Cut Coastal Protection Efforts Off at the Knees

by David Flores | June 14, 2017
On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee to explain how he plans to square the Trump administration's proposed 31-percent cut to EPA's budget with its statutory obligations to protect the environment. Spoiler alert: There's no plan. The proposition – implementing and enforcing safeguards related to water, air, and hazardous materials while cutting a quarter of the agency's workforce – is preposterous.  Some House members are likely to press Pruitt on a ...

Trump's Proposed Budget Cuts to Climate Programs Hurt American Agriculture

by David Flores | June 07, 2017
President Trump's historic retreat from the Paris climate accord last week is just the latest installment in the story of how his administration's anti-science and anti-protections policies with respect to climate change could do grave harm to many aspects of American life. His proposed budget is likely to be the next chapter.  While Trump sees the issue through coal-colored lenses, it's clear to anyone paying attention to actual science that that the impacts of climate change have and will continue ...

Paris Withdrawal Could Lead to 'Lost Century'

by Noah M Sachs | June 01, 2017
The President’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement is a tragedy born of his failure to appreciate the vital importance of U.S. leadership in the world. It’s particularly regrettable coming as it does on the heels of his performance in Europe last week, during which his refusal to embrace the fundamental underpinnings of NATO rocked the alliance. By abandoning the Paris Agreement, Trump continues on a reckless path of pretending that the dire threat posed by ...

Slowly and Grudgingly, Change Is Coming to Coal Country

by Daniel Farber | May 30, 2017
A sign of the times: Fox News has reported, without comment, that the Kentucky Coal Museum is installing solar panels to save money. This is part of a larger trend. On Saturday, the New York Times reported on shifts in power production in states like West Virginia and Kentucky. For instance, Appalachian Power has “closed three coal-fired plants and converted two others to gas, reducing its dependence on coal to 61 percent last year, down from 74 percent in 2012.” In response to an ...

Thinking Globally, Acting Transnationally

by Daniel Farber | May 12, 2017
The U.S. government obviously isn't going to be taking a global leadership role regarding climate change, not for the next four years. At one time, that would have been the end of the story: the only way to accomplish anything internationally was through national governments. But we live in a different world today, and there are other channels for international action against climate change. Today, transnational networks of state and local governments, private firms, and NGOs are actively addressing climate ...

Trump's Fossil Fuel Dream Team Faces Climate Change's Checks and Balances

by David Hunter | May 05, 2017
Due to the blinders of his fossil fuel dream team and the industry's myths denying climate change (#ExxonKnew), President Donald Trump seems once again on the verge of withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord. That's a fool's errand. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement would be a major blow to U.S. standing and leadership in the world. It would also slow our country's efforts to do our part in avoiding catastrophic climate change. So why is he even considering a ...

Reaching Higher Ground in the Face of Climate Change

by David Flores | May 03, 2017
We've seen a flurry of news coverage in the last several weeks on climate migration, displacement, and relocation. In a new report published today, the Center for Progressive Reform explores these issues and examines tools and resources that communities can use when faced with the challenges of relocating out of harm's way.  The New York Times Magazine recently profiled one homeowner in Norfolk, Virginia, who purchased a home that had never been flooded, but in the ten years since has ...

Climate Change

Human-caused climate change poses a profound threat to the future health of the planet and all that live on it. We know what causes it, and how to slow it down. But we have barely  begun to make real policy progress, in the face of heavily bankrolled opposition from the energy industry and its allies. CPR Member Scholars are focused on mitigating and preventing climate change, and adapting to what climate change we are too late to prevent.

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