Using Emergency Powers to Fight Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | January 14, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet.

Republicans are apparently worried that if Trump could use emergency powers by declaring border security a national emergency, the next president could do the same thing for climate change. There's no doubt that this would be far more legitimate than Trump's wall effort. Border crossings are much lower than they were ten years ago; he has said in the recent past that his prior efforts have vastly improved border security. In contrast, the Pentagon has classified climate change as a threat to national security, and Congress under Republican control has even endorsed this view. Furthermore, scientists have made it clear that we have a limited time to head off a disastrous outcome.

With that in mind, I did some quick research to see what powers a president might have to take emergency action against climate change. This doesn't mean I think it's a good idea, either for Trump or for future President X. But if the courts uphold Trump's use of emergency powers, some might well think that turnabout would be fair play.

One immediate possibility would be to use the same power that Trump is considering in order to divert military construction funds to other uses – in this case, perhaps building wind or solar farms or new transmission lines. But what else could President X do?

The Brennan Center has compiled a helpful list of almost 150 statutes giving the ...

Seven Bright Spots of 2018

by Daniel Farber | December 31, 2018
A version of this post was originally published on Legal Planet. Yes, it was a grim year in many ways. But there actually were some bright spots. Here are just the high points. Scott Pruitt. Pruitt resigned under fire. While his successor may be more successful in some ways, the fact remains that Pruitt was a disgrace. We're better off without him. Trump was apparently unfazed by his incompetence and aversion to hard work. But the succession of scandals and ...

Planning for the Public Health Effects of Climate Migration

by Maxine A Burkett | December 17, 2018
This post was originally published by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat. In Alaska's arctic communities, Inuit contemplating the need to relocate have reported that the loss of sea ice would make them feel like they are lost or going crazy. Zika and other vector-borne diseases have been a concern primarily for people in the southeastern United States. Recent research on the long-range internal migration of people from the coasts to the interior suggests a broader national concern regarding "climate ...

Message for State Climate Policy: Lead with a Vision, Not a Tax

by Alice Kaswan | November 19, 2018
Washington State has continued to try – unsuccessfully – to pass a carbon tax, with the latest effort, Initiative 1631, losing on November 6. The state's effort to control carbon is laudable, but Washington and other states contemplating how to fill the growing federal climate policy void should consider leading with a vision for a clean energy transition rather than a politically challenging "price." An overarching vision for a low-carbon future and a public decision-making process for achieving that future ...

Designing Law to Prevent Runaway Climate Change

by Melissa Powers | November 15, 2018
This post is part of a series of essays from the Environmental Law Collaborative on the theme "Environmental Law. Disrupted." It was originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. "Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." If that's so, our climate and energy laws have been perfectly designed to fall short. They will not avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change or enable a swift transition to a zero-carbon energy system because they have not been ...

Federal Court Deals Major Blow to Keystone XL Pipeline

by Victor Flatt | November 12, 2018
Late last week, a federal district court in Montana blocked construction on the Keystone XL pipeline. The decision in Indigenous Environmental Network, et al. v. U.S. Department of State is a significant victory for the environment and a major blow to the ultimate completion of the controversial pipeline. The case centered on the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to reverse the State Department’s initial rejection of the pipeline project, issued in 2015. The court noted that the environmental impact statement prepared ...

Climate Change, Public Health, and the Ocean and Coasts

by Robin Kundis Craig | November 05, 2018
Climate change is having significant effects on the ocean. Sea levels are rising. The ocean is becoming warmer, and because the ocean absorbs chemically reactive carbon dioxide, its pH is dropping. Hurricanes, typhoons, and other coastal storms are becoming stronger on average. Marine species are on the move, generally shifting toward the poles and, to a lesser extent, deeper. Coral reefs are dying.  Clearly, the climate impacts on the ocean are cause for concern. Between 2013 and 2016, the ocean ...

Bay Journal Op-Ed: State Pollution-Permitting Must Be Reformed to Adapt to Climate Change

by David Flores | November 01, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission. Recent extreme weather — Hurricanes Harvey and Florence — caused widespread toxic contamination of floodwaters after low-lying chemical plants, coal ash storage facilities and hog waste lagoons were inundated. Such storm-driven chemical disasters demonstrate that state water pollution permitting programs are overdue for reforms that account for stronger and more intense hurricanes and heavy rainfall events, sea level rise and extreme heat. As the District of Columbia and the states ...

Gutting Fuel Efficiency and States' Rights: The Trump EPA's Unsafe SAFE Vehicles Rule

by Hannah Wiseman | November 01, 2018
This post was originally published on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission. On October 26, 2018, the comment period ended for a new rule that guts U.S. fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. If the final rule resembles the proposed rule, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule) will lock in old fuel efficiency standards, reversing Obama administration regulations mandating increased efficiency. Specifically, the ...

States Rally Around Renewables

by Daniel Farber | October 29, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment published a survey of state energy policies through 2017. The trend toward renewables has continued in 2018. Even after nearly two years of the Trump presidency, states haven't given up. Instead, they're moving forward aggressively. If anything, Trump seems to have stimulated these states to try even harder. Here's a quick rundown of what's happened so far in 2018: California mandated that all new homes have solar energy and ...

Fresno Bee Op-Ed: Trump Rolls Back Clean Car Standards as Air Quality Worsens

by Alice Kaswan | October 25, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Fresno Bee. Cities in the San Joaquin Valley continue to land among the American Lung Association's top 10 most polluted communities in the country. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the comment period closed on the Trump administration's plans to ratchet back federal emissions standards and eliminate California's authority to run its crucial car emissions programs. Although the administration has its eyes on greenhouse gas controls, what's at stake is California's ability to transition to low- and ...

Modernizing the Grid

by Daniel Farber | October 24, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. In my last post, I talked about how Obama's Clean Power plan was the right response to a changing grid. The grid is in the process of changing even more. It was designed for some relatively straightforward tasks. The main power plants, mostly burning coal (but sometimes natural gas or nuclear energy), ran day and night. They were supplemented by other power plants when needed to meet load (customer demand). All the power flowed from these ...

Jumping the Fence Line, Embracing the Grid

by Daniel Farber | October 23, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Click here for the follow-up post. If you've been reading this blog or otherwise keeping up with environmental law, you've probably heard this a hundred times: In rolling back Obama's signature climate regulation, the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is relying on the idea that EPA's jurisdiction stops at the fence line. That is, according to the Trump folks, EPA can impose measures on each plant, but not measures that go beyond the fence line ...

The EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule: Putting Money on ACE Is a Bad Bet -- Part II

by Joseph Tomain | October 10, 2018
This post is the second of a pair on the Trump administration's so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule. You can read the first post here on CPRBlog.  Industry Trends In short, energy projections demonstrate a clear trend for clean energy and away from fossil fuels. These trends, directly and negatively, affect traditional electric utilities. About the time that rooftop solar financing was being consolidated by third parties such as SolarCity and Sunrun, utilities began to worry about a "death spiral." ...

The EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule: Putting Money on ACE Is a Bad Bet -- Part I

by Joseph Tomain | October 10, 2018
This post is the first of a pair on the Trump administration's so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule. You can read the second post here on CPRBlog.  On August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule as a substitute for the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP had been stayed from going into effect by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the purpose of the substitute rule is to establish greenhouse gas emissions ...

The Trump Administration's Acknowledgement of Climate Change Is Cynical -- and Potentially Sinister

by Melissa Powers | October 03, 2018
As Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post reported on September 27, the Trump administration seems to finally be acknowledging that climate change is real. But the motivation for recognizing that reality is cynical, at best, so rather than proposing doing something – anything – about climate change, the administration concludes we shouldn't bother trying.  Buried in a 500-page justification for a rule that would prevent California (and, by extension, other states) from regulating emissions of ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Seeking Climate Justice in the Common Law

by Karen Sokol | September 26, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. The 450 Inupiat residents of Kivalina, a small village on the frozen tundra of Alaska at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, are among the first communities in the world to lose their ability to survive because of climate change. With temperature increases that double the global average, Alaska is one of the canaries in the coal mine ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Coastal Storms, Private Property, and the Takings Issue

by John Echeverria | September 25, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the New Jersey shore, claiming dozens of lives and destroying or damaging more than 300,000 homes. Properties along the shore were especially hard hit, with many oceanfront homes lifted off their foundations and tossed inland. All told, business losses were estimated at more than $30 billion. While no single ...

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.

Using Emergency Powers to Fight Climate Change

Farber | Jan 14, 2019 | Climate Change

Planning for the Public Health Effects of Climate Migration

Burkett | Dec 17, 2018 | Climate Change

Designing Law to Prevent Runaway Climate Change

Powers | Nov 15, 2018 | Climate Change

Climate Change, Public Health, and the Ocean and Coasts

Kundis Craig | Nov 05, 2018 | Climate Change
Recommended Resources:
Climate Change
Time for Real Action on Global Warming

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