Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories of 2019 (IMHO)

by James Goodwin | December 20, 2019

For many of us, the best way to characterize the past year in three words would be “too much news.” That sentiment certainly applies to the wonky backwater of the regulatory policy world. Today, that world looks much different than it did even just a year ago, and with still more rapid changes afoot, the cloud of uncertainty that now looms ominously over it doesn’t appear to be dissipating anytime soon. None of this is good for the health of our people, our democracy or our economy, and it’s certainly not good for the millions of working families struggling to keep their heads above water between paychecks.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the biggest developments from the past year that have contributed to this disquieting state of affairs.

  1. Nondelegation bullet dodged – for now. The case, Gundy v. United States, presented as clear cut an opportunity as there could be for the Supreme Court to institute a strict new approach to enforcing the nondelegation doctrine – long a top priority for small government ideologues intent on dismantling the regulatory system. At the time of oral arguments, though, Justice Kavanaugh had not yet been seated on the Court leaving the four other conservatives one vote short of a decisive majority in the case. In November, Kavanaugh used a rare statement in conjunction with the Court’s denial of an appeal of another case raising the issue, ...

Exxon's $75 Million Methane Leak

by Dave Owen | December 18, 2019
Reposted by permission from the Environmental Law Prof Blog. This morning E&E News reported that researchers from the Netherlands and the Environmental Defense Fund had quantified a massive natural gas leak at an Exxon-subsidiary-owned well in Ohio.  According to the study, the well leaked around 60,000 tons of methane. That made me wonder: what might the carbon tax bill for a leak like that be?  The answer, of course, is $0, because neither the United States as a whole nor the state of Ohio ...

2019 in Renewable Energy

by Daniel Farber | December 09, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission. Despite the efforts of the Trump administration, renewable energy has continued to thrive. Key states are imposing rigorous deadlines for reducing power generation from fossil fuels. Economic trends are also supporting renewables. In the first half of 2019, Texas produced more power from renewables than coal. Texas may be content to rely on market forces, but other states are taking a more active hand in shaping their energy futures. Here are the new ...

A Dozen Strategies for the Struggle With Big Oil

by Daniel Farber | October 28, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reposted by permission. The oil industry is enormous – something like 2 to 3 percent of global GDP. Individuals firms like ExxonMobil earn tens of billions of dollars each quarter. Controlling climate change will mean drastic curtailment in the coming decades of the industry’s major products. There’s no way that the industry will accept this lying down, and it’s a formidable opponent. To be successful, we will need a combination of strategies, aside from the rightness ...

Striking for Environmental and Social Justice in Roanoke

by David Flores | September 26, 2019
On September 23, I attended the Climate Emergency: Tri-State Pipeline Strike in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. While affiliated with the Global Climate Strike week of action, the event in Roanoke was another milestone in the years-long and continuing struggle to prevent construction of natural gas pipelines through parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.                       The day prior, my family and I attended a “Circle of Protection” event atop verdant Bent ...

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 ...

Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline?

by Noah M Sachs | August 14, 2019
This commentary is excerpted from The American Prospect. Hiking south on the Appalachian Trail from Reeds Gap in Virginia, my teenage daughter and I come to a clearing. We’re at the Three Ridges Overlook, taking in the view of the Rockfish River Valley undulating to the east. Piney Mountain, blanketed in a green canopy of oaks and poplars, stares back at us from across the divide. This tranquil section of the iconic trail is the subject of a four-year legal battle ...

The Flight of the Bumblebee

by Daniel Farber | July 30, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Last Friday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals halted efforts to build a natural gas pipeline because the Trump administration had done such a lousy job of showing its compliance with the Endangered Species Act. This was one of the administration's many losses in court. The case involved a perfect example of "arbitrary and capricious" decision making, to use the legal terminology. In simpler terms, the government's explanation for its decision was as full of ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Twin Peaks: The Fossil Fuel Edition -- Part II

by Joseph Tomain | April 22, 2019
Fossil fuels are reaching their consumption peak. By way of example, the United States has a surfeit of coal, but coal use is on the decline as natural gas and renewable resources replace the dirty fuel for generating electricity. Similarly, oil and natural gas are on the same decreasing consumption trajectory as recent data and modeling suggest. Consider the following market facts that directly impact coal and reveal its consumption peak: In Europe, fossil fuels peaked when renewables reached 3 ...

Twin Peaks: The Fossil Fuel Edition -- Part I

by Joseph Tomain | April 22, 2019
In 1956, Texas oil geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak no later than 1970. Lo and behold, in 1970, oil production topped out at just over 9.6 million barrels a day (mbd) and began its decline. The predicted peak had been reached. Regarding the world oil supply – no worries. There were oceans of oil in Middle East deserts, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, new finds in the North Sea, as well as discoveries, largely ...

A Defeat on Offshore Drilling Extends the Trump Administration's Losing Streak in Court

by Alejandro Camacho | April 11, 2019
Originally published by The Conversation. The Trump administration's push to boost fossil fuel extraction has received a major setback. On March 29, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled invalid Trump's order lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the the Arctic Ocean and along parts of the North Atlantic coast. Gleason held that the relevant law – the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – authorizes presidents to withdraw offshore lands ...

Oversight, Executive Orders, and the Rule of Law

by David Driesen | March 14, 2019
This post is based on a recent article published in the University of Missouri—Kansas City Law Review. Congressional oversight and the public's impeachment discussion tend to focus on deep dark secrets: Did President Trump conspire with the Russians? Did he cheat on his taxes? Did he commit other crimes before becoming president? The House Committee on Oversight and Reform (or the Judiciary Committee), however, should also focus on a more fundamental and less hidden problem: Trump has systematically sought to ...

New on 'Connect the Dots': The Frontline Communities Fighting Back Against Polluting Pipelines

by James Goodwin | February 21, 2019
For affected indigenous communities in the United States and Canada, new oil and gas pipelines snaking across their lands represent a new kind of attack. Dirty, polluting, dangerous, and built without the communities' consent, these pipelines are the inevitable outcome of North America's hydraulic fracturing and tar sands oil "revolutions" that have played out in recent decades. These indigenous frontline communities must bear the disproportionate costs brought about by developed nations' continued addiction to fossil fuels, all without seeing most ...

Energy

When it comes to energy policy, the nation faces difficult choices. Researchers have made important strides on bringing renewable sources of energy into the mainstream, gradually replacing more familiar, but nevertheless unsustainable, high-polluting sources of power for our homes, cars and factories.

Exxon's $75 Million Methane Leak

Owen | Dec 18, 2019 | Energy

2019 in Renewable Energy

Farber | Dec 09, 2019 | Energy

Good News from the States: April 2019 Round-up

Farber | Apr 30, 2019 | Energy
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