Trump's Legal Challenges to the California Car Deal

by Daniel Farber | September 09, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet.

Prompting rage by President Trump, California and several carmakers entered into a voluntary agreement on carbon emissions from new cars that blew past the administration's efforts to repeal existing federal requirements. Last week, the Trump administration slapped back at California. Although there's been a lot of editorializing about that response, I've seen very little about the legal dimensions of the administration's actions. I'd like to shed a little bit of light on those.

The administration took two separate actions. First, the Department of Transportation and EPA sent a letter arguing that California's action appeared to violate the federal statutes governing CAFE (fuel efficiency) and emissions standards for new vehicles. Second, the Justice Department opened an antitrust probe of the car companies themselves. How strong are the government's legal positions?

Let's start with the DOT/EPA letter. The Clean Air Act and the CAFE statute both contain provisions that preempt state law. Under the provision in the Clean Air Act, states may not "adopt or attempt to enforce any standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines." California currently has an EPA waiver of this provision, which EPA is now attempting to withdraw. Under the CAFE provision, a state may not "adopt or enforce a law or regulation related to fuel economy standards or average fuel economy standards for ...

Hurricane Dorian May Brush Virginia, Bringing Danger of Toxic Floodwaters

by David Flores | September 05, 2019
In August, Virginians remembered the devastation wrought by Hurricane Camille 50 years earlier. After making landfall on the Gulf Coast, that storm dumped dozens of inches of rain in western portions of the Commonwealth and killed more than 150 people in flash floods and landslides. Today, Virginians along the Atlantic coast and in the Hampton Roads region have Hurricane Dorian on their minds, with potentially life-threatening flooding, property destruction, and toxic floodwaters being serious hazards. The National Weather Service is ...

The Hill Op-ed: Congress Should Support Clean Energy Research and Development

by Joseph Tomain | August 22, 2019
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill. For the past couple of years, President Trump's federal budget proposal has called for the elimination of a crucial Department of Energy program — the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The agency’s mission is to fund high-risk/high-reward energy research — that is, research that has transformative potential for the nation’s economic and energy needs but that is deemed too expensive or too risky for energy companies to fund on their own. Congress, though, has wisely resisted the president’s proposal, and continued to fund ARPA-E. But the White ...

The Hill Op-ed: We Need a Climate Plan for Agriculture

by Laurie Ristino | August 16, 2019
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill. A special report released on Aug. 8 by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shines a stark light on how agriculture is both uniquely impacted by and a key driver of climate change, contributing up to 37 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The report highlights the pressing need to reverse land degradation and forest conversion caused by food, feed and fiber production, as well as the significant climate mitigation opportunities of shifting to plant-based diets, especially in ...

A Letter to My Fellow Boomers about Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | August 15, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Polls show that a great many members of our generation oppose taking action against climate change. I want to try to explain to that group why you should rethink your views. Let me start by explaining why climate action would benefit you yourself and then widen the focus to include your grandchildren and their kids. Efforts to cut climate change right now aren't likely to have a big effect on climate in the next decade ...

ACE or Joker? Trump's Self-Defeating Climate Rule

by Daniel Farber | July 25, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. To hear President Trump talk, the point of deregulation is to reduce the burden of regulation on industry. But weirdly enough, that doesn't turn out to be true of Trump's effort to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replace it with his own Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. Both rules regulate carbon emissions from power plants (though Trump's rule covers only coal plants). According to his own EPA, however, the Trump administration's approach will ...

The Hill Op-ed: Trump Trashes the Natural World and Calls It 'Environmental Leadership'

by Joel Mintz | July 17, 2019
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill. In a recent speech, President Trump touted what he described as "America's environmental leadership" during his presidency. He claimed that over the past two-and-a-half years, his administration has been "a good steward of public land," reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, and successfully promoted clean air and water.  His claims are Orwellian in scope and mendacity. Even the most cursory examination of the Trump administration's environmental record reveals an appalling litany of irresponsible, anti-environmental ...

Beyond Carbon Pricing: Envisioning a Green Transition

by Alice Kaswan | July 16, 2019
High hopes that putting a price on carbon emissions would provide the most effective and politically expedient climate change policy keep getting dashed. In June, Oregon's Republican senators fled the state and hid rather than enact a carbon cap-and-trade program. Washington State citizen initiatives to pass a carbon tax have failed – twice. Even in progressive California, efforts to include a cap-and-trade program in the state's initial climate legislation failed; cap-and-trade came later, administratively rather than legislatively, and as part ...

Where's the Beef?

by Daniel Farber | July 15, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet Mississippi recently passed a law that has the effect of banning terms like "veggie burger." It's easy to imagine other states passing similar laws. From an environmental view, that's problematic, because beef in particular is connected with much higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant products. It's not just the methane from cow-burps, it's also all the carbon emissions connected with growing corn to feed the cattle. But in addition to its environmental drawbacks, the Mississippi ...

New House Bill a Game Changer for Protecting Workers from Extreme Heat

by Katie Tracy | July 11, 2019
Asunción Valdivia, a 53-year old father and farmworker at a Giumarra vineyard in California, died after laboring to pick grapes for ten straight hours in 105-degree heat. When he collapsed, his employer told Valdivia’s son, Luis, who was also working in the field, to drive him to the hospital, but Valdivia died before they arrived. In Valdivia’s memory, on July 10, Reps. Judy Chu and Raúl Grijalva paved the way to protecting outdoor and indoor workers across the nation from ...

Replacing the CPP's Visionary Energy Planning with the ACE's Technical Tinkering

by Alice Kaswan | June 28, 2019
The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the Trump administration's recently released substitute for his predecessor's Clean Power Plan (CPP), has been widely criticized as an ineffectual mechanism for addressing power plants' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. More broadly, the rule substitutes a technocratic, plant-by-plant approach for the more comprehensive and participatory state planning required by the now-repealed CPP. The ACE identifies a range of potential heat-rate improvements (usually efficiency improvements) at coal-fired power plants and then lets the states determine which ...

The 'Advancing Coal Energy' Rule? EPA's Misguided Approach to Carbon Emissions from the Dirtiest Power Plants

by Hannah Wiseman | June 26, 2019
The EPA released its finalized rule for carbon emissions from existing power plants last week. The agency calls the rule the "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule, but it would be better named the "Advancing Coal Energy" rule given its explicit aim to keep old, dirty coal-fired power plants running. A bit of background first for those who aren't familiar with the rule. The United States has made a great deal of progress cleaning up its power plants so they emit ...

A Meditation on Juliana v. United States

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 17, 2019
In a recent essay posted to SSRN, I try to see, and to appreciate, the wisdom in a species of climate litigation that has many detractors. This litigation asks the courts to hold the government and private parties judicially accountable for their active promotion and pursuit of climate-endangering activities, even after they knew better – even after they knew the terrible risks we faced if they continued on their preferred course. It calls upon venerable legal doctrines, deployed as modern ...

Achieving an 80 Percent Emissions Cut by 2050

by Daniel Farber | May 22, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. To do its part in keeping climate change to tolerable levels, the United States needs to cut its carbon emissions at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. That’s not just a matter of decarbonizing the electricity sector; it means changes in everything from aviation to steel manufacture, and reducing not only CO2 but also other pollutants like HFCs and black carbon. In a new book, Michael Gerrard and John Dernbach have assembled a team of authors to ...

Chesapeake Bay State Plans to Protect Watershed, Reduce Pollution Fall Short

by Brian Gumm | May 16, 2019
In April, states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed published drafts of the latest iteration of plans to reduce pollution and protect their rivers and streams. New analyses from the Center for Progressive Reform show that the plans fall far short of what is needed to restore the health and ecological integrity of the Chesapeake Bay. The draft plans, known as Phase III watershed implementation plans (WIPs), were developed as part of the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) framework that ...

Connecting the Dots Among Infrastructure, Community Needs, and Climate: Season Two of CPR's Signature Podcast

by Robert Verchick | May 07, 2019
Pop quiz: What do marshes, pipelines, forests, and underground parking structures have in common? The answer is they are all infrastructure – part of the "underlying foundation," as my dictionary puts it, "on which the continuance and growth of a community depend." A lot of that foundation, like pipelines and parking structures, is artificial. But most of the goods and services we rely on come from the natural environment, itself, like clean water, breathable air, and a stable climate. Ideally, ...

How Climate Change Will Affect Real Lives -- Now and in the Future

by Daniel Farber | May 06, 2019
This op-ed was originally published by The Revelator. It is reprinted under Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND 3.0. Climate change has already had serious effects, but as we know from the steady and increasingly loud drumbeat of projections from various scientific bodies, the dangers will grow much greater in future decades. But what does this actually look like? Projections of life in 2050 or 2100 seem like the stuff of science fiction, yet those seemingly distant decades are not so far ...

Good News from the States: April 2019 Round-up

by Daniel Farber | April 30, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Every day seems to bring more news of the Trump administration's dogged efforts to reduce environmental protections and accelerate climate change with increased carbon emissions. But, as has been true since Trump took office, the picture at the state level is much different. State governments across the country have accelerated their efforts to decarbonize while efforts to save the coal industry have foundered. Here are some of the latest developments. Earlier this month, Maryland's legislature ...

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.

The Hill Op-ed: We Need a Climate Plan for Agriculture

Ristino | Aug 16, 2019 | Climate Change

A Letter to My Fellow Boomers about Climate Change

Farber | Aug 15, 2019 | Climate Change

ACE or Joker? Trump's Self-Defeating Climate Rule

Farber | Jul 25, 2019 | Climate Change

Beyond Carbon Pricing: Envisioning a Green Transition

Kaswan | Jul 16, 2019 | Climate Change

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