The 'Affordable Clean Energy' Rule and Environmental Justice

by Alice Kaswan | August 29, 2018

For disadvantaged communities, the so-called Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) falls far short of the protections and opportunities included in the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration rule that the Trump EPA is now attempting to repeal and replace.

One of the Clean Power Plan's (CPP) essential features was its recognition that the electricity sector operates as an interconnected system. Because of its system-wide approach, the CPP could achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants by encouraging utilities to shift from pollution-intensive coal to less-polluting alternatives, including natural gas and renewables. In contrast, the ACE rule focuses narrowly on coal-fired power plants, considering only facility-specific "heat-rate improvements," thus sacrificing a host of other ways to both conserve energy and prevent pollution. The proposed rule also fails to prompt states to engage in the more comprehensive and longer-term planning that is necessary to achieve significant reductions and benefit communities that are disproportionately burdened by air pollution and the effects of climate change.

The ACE's unnecessarily modest climate ambitions are its first environmental justice casualty. According to EPA, the proposal is projected to result in 50 to 60 million more tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions than the CPP. (See Table 6, page 142 of the proposal) Climate change is likely to hit poor and disadvantaged communities the hardest: Communities in low-lying areas are at greater risk of flooding; the disadvantaged communities ...

What's Ahead for Trump's Pro-Coal Rule?

by Daniel Farber | August 28, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. You've already heard a lot about Trump's pro-coal ACE rule. You're likely to keep hearing about it, off and on, throughout the next couple of years, and maybe longer. I've set out a rough timetable below, and at the end I discuss some implications. Step 1: The Rulemaking  Aug. 2018 Notice of proposed rule issued (clock for comments starts with publication in the Federal Register) Oct.-Nov. 2018 Comment period closes (60 days after clock starts, unless there are ...

The National Environmental Policy Act Can Give Communities Impacted by Toxic Flooding a Voice

by Elena Franco | August 27, 2018
This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. It is based on a forthcoming article that will be published in the Sustainable Development Law & Policy Brief. As climate change makes extreme weather events increasingly frequent, the risk of flooding on our rivers and shores increases. As I noted in a previous post in this series, this puts us at risk for toxic flooding – the combination of ...

A Loss for Trump -- and for Coal

by Daniel Farber | August 23, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Understandably, most of the attention at the beginning of the week was devoted to the rollout of the Trump administration's token effort to regulate greenhouse gases, the ACE rule. But something else happened, too. On Tuesday, a D.C. Circuit ruling ignored objections from the Trump administration and invalidated key parts of a rule dealing with coal ash disposal. That rule had originally come from the Obama administration, and the court agreed with environmentalists that it was too weak. ...

CPR, Public Interest Allies Call on EPA to Abandon 'Benefits-Busting' Rule

by James Goodwin | August 15, 2018
Earlier this week, 19 Member Scholars with the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provide a detailed legal and policy critique of the agency's "benefits-busting" rulemaking.  Since early July, EPA has been accepting feedback on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that could lead to a complete overhaul of how the agency performs cost-benefit analysis on its environmental and public health rules. Consistent with other anti-safeguard moves the Trump EPA has ...

Trump's OSHA Backtracks on Electronic Recordkeeping Rule over Bogus Privacy Concerns

by Katie Tracy | August 14, 2018
The Trump administration has aggressively sought to undermine public safeguards since taking office, all under the guise of making America great (again?). Nowhere has this been more evident than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where Trump appointees have sought to attack most every standard adopted during the Obama era, as well as long-standing analytical procedures (see here and here) designed to ensure any new standards are evidence-based and scientifically sound. These attacks do not stop at EPA, however. Trump has ...

Trump Loses Another Big Court Case

by Daniel Farber | August 13, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Scott Pruitt had no justification for allowing even the tiniest traces of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos (also called Lorsban and Dursban) on food. This is yet another judicial slap against lawlessness by the current administration. Chlorpyrifos was originally invented as a nerve gas, but it turns out that it kills insects quite satisfactorily. (I remember ads for "Big Foot Lorsban" from back when I lived in downstate Illinois, many years ago. ...

Making Sense of NOAA's Wildfire Announcement

by Dave Owen | August 10, 2018
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross just released a statement directing NOAA to "facilitate" water use to respond to California's wildfires (the statement follows several tweets in which President Trump implied that the cause of California's wildfires was the state's ill-advised decision to let some of its rivers flow downhill to the ocean). Because I've already seen a few befuddled headlines about what this all means, I thought a short post explaining a few ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Proposed Rollbacks in Vehicle Emission Limits Pose Serious Environmental Threat

by Joel Mintz | August 09, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Federal laws and regulations play a crucial role determining the quality of our air, water, and natural resources. Well-researched and scientifically supported rules can bring enormous benefits to the American people, but regulatory rollbacks for little more than deregulation's sake can cause great harm. One example of the potential damage that a poorly crafted regulation may cause is the new proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ...

Watered Down Standards at the TRUMP CAFÉ

by Daniel Farber | August 06, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Trump is proposing to gut CO2 standards for cars, freezing 2020 CAFE fuel-efficiency standards in place for years to come. Without the freeze, the standards would automatically ramp up. He also wants to eliminate California's ability to set its own standards, which many other states have opted to adopt. Here are seven key questions about Trump's proposed rollback and some answers. Do the car companies really want this? A: Not so much. It's not that they love being ...

Miami Herald Op-Ed: New EPA Administrator, Same Menace to the Environment

by Joel Mintz | August 02, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Miami Herald. The forced resignation of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought celebration and relief in many quarters. Pruitt was a walking scandal machine who generated an endless stream of headlines about spending abuses, cozy relationships with industry lobbyists, first-class travel at government expense, and aides asked to perform personal tasks, including buying lotions and mattresses and unsuccessfully helping his wife land a Chick-fil-A franchise. Of more lasting ...

A Real, Not Faux, Transparency Proposal for Regulatory Science

by Wendy Wagner | August 01, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. In a previous essay, we critiqued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently proposed transparency rule, arguing that the proposal conflicts with best scientific practices and would further erode the EPA’s ability to do its job. According to supporters, the central goal of the proposed rule is to increase the transparency of regulatory science. Unfortunately, the proposal does not begin to deliver. No matter how many times the word “transparency” is repeated ...

Wheeler's Chance for a Course Correction at EPA

by Matt Shudtz | August 01, 2018
Andrew Wheeler will be on the hot seat today when he heads to Capitol Hill for his first appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as Acting Administrator of the EPA. Senators initially scheduled the hearing when Scott Pruitt was Administrator and his ethical problems had reached such epic proportions that his party's support was starting to erode. With Pruitt out and Wheeler in, today's hearing has the potential to be more about environmental policy than conflicts of ...

Pruitt's Super-Polluting Parting Shot

by Lisa Heinzerling | July 31, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. In the fitting last act of his corrupt reign as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt handed a gift to companies who profit from producing cheaper trucks by dispensing with modern pollution control equipment. He arranged for political appointees at EPA to issue memoranda that together promised that EPA would not enforce an existing legal limit on production numbers for the super-polluting trucks. The memos had all ...

South Florida Sun Sentinel Op-Ed: Kavanaugh May Limit Environmental Protections If Confirmed to Supreme Court

by Joel Mintz | July 31, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Recent events have underscored the vital importance of effective environmental regulation for Floridians. Blue green algae — apparently caused by releases of contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee — has blanketed significant portions of our state’s east and west coasts, causing major economic losses and posing a threat to the health of coastal residents. Pro-active regulation and enforcement of environmental laws could (and should) have prevented these abysmal consequences. In fact, lawsuits ...

American Prospect Commentary: Judge Kavanaugh’s Deregulatory Agenda

by Thomas McGarity | July 30, 2018
This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect.  Most of us take for granted the federal regulations that make our air cleaner, our drinking water purer, our food, highways, and workplaces safer, and our economic transactions less vulnerable to fraud and abuse. And few of us realize the extent to which those protections are subject to reversal by federal courts applying legal principles prescribed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be ...

EPA Releases Assessment of Chesapeake Bay Restoration Progress

by Evan Isaacson | July 27, 2018
Today, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the Environmental Protection Agency officially released its assessment of Chesapeake Bay restoration progress. This marked the formal conclusion of the multi-year process known as the "midpoint assessment" for the Chesapeake's cleanup plan. 2017 represents the halfway point for the cleanup, at which time state and federal partners were supposed to have reached 60 percent of their final 2025 nutrient and sediment pollution reduction targets. Unfortunately, 2017 will go down as another in a long ...

Judge Brett Kavanaugh: Environmental Policymaker

by Joseph Tomain | July 26, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. When Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat, I was interested in his energy law opinions and began reading them together with some of his environmental law decisions. They seem to be written by two different judges. Administrative law cases can be procedurally and technically complex. The role of the judiciary in those cases, however, is relatively straightforward. Congress passes ...
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