The Hill Op-ed: We Need a Climate Plan for Agriculture
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 wealthy countries like ours.
The United States depends on its vast agricultural and forest lands for a host of amenities, including food, fiber, clean water — and mitigating climate change. These working lands, many of which are already degraded, are under unprecedented stress from rising temperatures and extreme weather. We need a climate plan for agriculture.
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As it stands, agriculture policy consists mainly of the farm bill, a rambling package of various policies and subsidies that Congress renews every five years or so. Although essential, given the breadth of issues the farm bill touches (the nutrition safety net, the farm safety net, conservation and rural development), it has evolved as an accretion of programs.
In other words, the law has no overarching policy framework or purpose and, by design, turns a blind eye to the reality of climate change. As a result, despite spending billions
A Letter to My Fellow Boomers about Climate Change
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
Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline?
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
Big Coal Ash Settlement in Pennsylvania Shows One Path Forward for Bay Restoration
Chesapeake Bay and clean water advocates in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region celebrated a significant legal win last week as Talen Energy, owner of the notorious Brunner Island coal-fired power plant, agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). The settlement is big news first and foremost because it will result in the closure and excavation of a massive coal ash disposal pond and the treatment of a number of other ponds, thus eliminating a significant
Get Ready for Phase 2 of the Deregulation Wars
Originally published on Legal Planet. The first phase of Trump's regulatory rollbacks has been directed against Obama's climate change regulations. Those deregulatory actions will be finalized soon. What happens next will be in the hands of the courts. But the Trump EPA is now beginning a new phase in its attack on environmental regulation. Having tried to eliminate climate regulation, its next move will be an attack on basic protections against air pollution. The Clean Air Act, the federal air
The Flight of the Bumblebee
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
The Cost-Benefit Boomerang
This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect. Everyone in communications knows how to bury a news story: release it late on a Friday. So it was with the White House’s annual report on federal regulations, released months behind schedule on a Friday in February. As it has for many years, the report pegged the benefits of federal regulation in the hundreds of billions of dollars, swamping the calculated costs of compliance by at least 2 to 1 and
ACE or Joker? Trump's Self-Defeating Climate Rule
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
Justice Stevens and the Rule of (Environmental) Law
Originally published on Legal Planet There's already been a lot written in the aftermath of Justice Stevens's death, including Ann Carlson's excellent Legal Planet post earlier this week. I'd like to add something about an aspect of his jurisprudence that had great relevance to environmental law: his belief in the rule of law, and specifically, in the duty of both the judiciary and the executive branch to respect and implement congressional mandates. This stance was evident in Justice Stevens's decision
The Hill Op-ed: Trump Trashes the Natural World and Calls It 'Environmental Leadership'
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
Op-Ed Shines Light on Trump EPA's Efforts to Re-Rig Cost-Benefit Analysis for Polluters
Last night, CPR Member Scholar Amy Sinden and I published an op-ed in The Hill explaining the dangers of a new rulemaking recently launched by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and former air office Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum. Through this rulemaking, Wheeler and Wehrum – both former industry lobbyists – will kick off the EPA's agency-wide effort to overhaul how it conducts cost-benefit analysis for its pending rules to ensure that this methodology remains heavily biased in favor
Justice Gorsuch versus the Administrative State
Originally published on Legal Planet. Gundy v. United States was a case involving a fairly obscure statute regulating sex offenders, but some have seen it as a harbinger of the destruction of the modern administrative state. In a 4-1-3 split, the Court turned away a constitutional challenge based on a claim that Congress had delegated too much authority to the executive branch. But there were ominous signs that at least four Justices are willing to change the ground rules in
EPA Abandons Role at the Center of the Chesapeake Bay Accountability Framework
On June 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its evaluation of the third and final round of state Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) under the Chesapeake Bay restoration framework known as the "Bay TMDL" (Total Maximum Daily Load). EPA's evaluation of the seven Bay jurisdictions broke no new ground regarding the quality or contents of the states' plans, but instead reiterated many of the same findings and concerns expressed by advocates, including the ones I expressed with my colleague David
Opinion Analysis: Virginia's Moratorium on Uranium Mining Is Not Pre-empted, but the Role of Legislative Purpose Remains Open for Debate
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). The Supreme Court has concluded that Virginia's decades-old moratorium on uranium mining is not pre-empted by the Atomic Energy Act. But there is no clear answer to the question that pervaded the briefing and oral argument: What is the proper role for state legislative purpose in a pre-emption analysis? Monday's judgment was accompanied by three opinions: a lead opinion written by
Pollution Bursts and Public Health
Originally published on Legal Planet. When a facility installs and operates the required pollution control equipment, we normally think of the pollution problem as solved. But there still may be bursts of pollution associated with start-up, shut-down, accidents, or external events. A recent study of pollution in Texas shows that these events have substantial health impacts, involving significant deaths and overall costs of about a quarter billion dollars a year in that state. Ironically, the study comes out at the
Updates on the War on Science
Originally published on Legal Planet. The Trump administration's hostile attitude toward science has continued unabated. The administration has used a triad of strategies: efforts to defund research, suppression of scientific findings, and embrace of fringe science. Budget. The administration continues to favor deep cuts in research support. Its initial 2020 budget proposal calls for a 13 percent cut to the National Science Foundation, a 12 percent cut at the National Institutes of Health, and elimination of the Energy Department's research support
Trump EPA Hiding Hundreds of Deaths in Plain View
According to press reports, EPA is preparing to ignore possible deaths caused by concentrations of pollutants occurring below the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). This is a key issue in a lot of decisions about pollution reduction. For instance, there is no NAAQS for mercury, but pollution controls on mercury would, as a side benefit, reduce pollution levels of harmful particulates. According to EPA’s prior cost-benefit analyses, those reductions could save many lives even in areas where current levels of
EPA's Partial Retreat on Cost-Benefit Analysis
In a memo sent last week but just now released, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler backtracked a bit on one of the administration's initiatives to undercut sensible safeguards. His May 13 memo abandons the agency's push last year to establish uniform standards for bending agency decision making in favor of cost-benefit analysis, regardless of statutory directives, and instead directs that this effort follow a statute-by-statute approach. Wheeler’s retreat on this particular effort to ignore the life-saving benefits of environmental rules is good
The planet faces unprecedented environmental challenges. Heading the list of threats is climate change, but other problems persist, including air and water pollution, toxic waste, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife. In recent years, we've been reminded that many of these problems , in their way, magnify the harm from natural disasters.
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