One of the most vexing environmental law issues of the last three decades is the scope of the term "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) in the Clean Water Act — and what marshes, lakes, and streams fall under its purview. A connected legal question stretching back even further is how much deference to give agencies in policymaking and legal interpretations.
These issues are present in both the Trump administration's final "Waters of the United States" rule, which narrowly defines waters subject to the act, and the Biden administration's likely attempt to expand that definition. The Trump administration's narrow approach dramatically reduces the number of waterways under federal protection. A broader definition would restore and possibly expand protections to better safeguard public and environmental health.
A new study on the economic analyses in the Trump rule (which I co-authored) concludes that its supporting economic analyses rely on questionable assumptions that are unsupported by evidence. The External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee (E-EEAC), an independent organization that provides information to the EPA, commissioned the study.
Our courts have been grappling with what "waters" Congress intended to include under the regulatory purview of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S …
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
The Black Lives Matter movement highlights long-standing inequities and amplifies the drumbeat for climate justice and an equitable transition to a clean economy. With the incoming Biden-Harris administration and a growing list of environmental justice advocates at the helm, it's time to move from rhetoric to reality. We offer concrete proposals to turn climate justice goals into climate justice policies.
The call for climate justice has multiple dimensions, from ensuring an equitable transition to clean energy for vulnerable communities and workers disrupted by the move away from fossil fuels, to extending the benefits of our economy-wide shift to those who have historically been left behind. Even more than past environmental challenges, decarbonizing will not be a narrow, technical undertaking. We need a holistic, justice-centered perspective to shape our vision for a green economy and meet the pervasive environmental and …
UPDATE: On January 27, a federal district court in Montana found that the Trump EPA unlawfully made the censored science rule immediately effective. The court then delayed its effective date until February 5. This doesn't overturn the rule, but it does give the Biden-Harris administration more flexibility as it works to fully repeal this damaging policy.
In a last-ditch effort to further weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to protect public health, this week, the Trump administration published its final “censored science” rule. As stated in the Center for Progressive Reform’s comments on the draft rulemaking, this proposal unjustifiably limits the research that can be used in regulatory decision-making, giving more weight to studies where the underlying data is publicly available. These restrictions will apply to dose-response studies — which measure how much an increase in pollution exposure increases public health harms — and which …
Update: On March 10, 2021, the Senate voted to confirm Michael Regan as EPA Administrator.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to name Michael Regan to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan is currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and his past experience includes earlier stints at EPA and the Environmental Defense Fund. He would be the first Black man to serve as EPA administrator.
Donald Trump and the industry allies he appointed to head this critical agency — Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler — harmed it through a series of air, water, pesticide, and chemical safety rollbacks. Pruitt and Wheeler also imposed damaging procedural rules on the agency that, if left in place, will make it next to impossible to use the best science to craft environmental protections — or to justify them in the first place. Adding insult to injury, the …
UPDATE: The Senate confirmed Brenda Mallory as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality on April 14, 2021.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to name Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office that coordinates environmental policy across federal agencies. Mallory has more than three decades of environmental law and policy experience, served as CEQ general counsel under President Barack Obama, and is currently director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Though somewhat dormant during Donald Trump's early tenure, CEQ ramped up its attacks on environmental policies and protections during the second half of Trump’s term.
It focused its assault on how agencies review the environmental impacts of their actions. Congress required such environmental review beginning in 1970 with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Whenever an agency funds or issues a permit for a big project …
Update: On March 15, 2021, the Senate voted to confirm Deb Haaland as Secretary of Interior.
President-elect Joe Biden tapped Deb Haaland to head up the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees our nation's public lands, wildlife conservation, and key aspects of energy development. Currently a House representative from New Mexico, Haaland has led the national parks, forests, and public lands subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee. She would be the first Native American to lead the department.
If confirmed, Haaland will oversee an agency the Trump administration systematically worked to dismantle. Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt did everything in their power to make the department as industry friendly as possible — shrinking national monuments, gutting endangered species protections, throwing open the doors to fossil fuel extraction, and more.
Though Haaland will face significant challenges, she can begin to reverse harmful policies and ensure …
Update: On February 25, 2021, the Senate confirmed Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy.
President-elect Joe Biden is poised to name Jennifer Granholm to lead the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees key energy efficiency standards, research, and development. Granholm is a former two-term governor of Michigan and a champion of using a clean energy transition to spur economic growth.
During the Trump years, the department repeatedly tried to defund important clean energy research programs. The department also weakened energy efficiency standards for appliances, light bulbs, and other consumer products. These actions damaged our country’s ability to reduce carbon pollution, combat climate change, and help those most burdened by high energy bills.
The Biden administration and Granholm must make energy justice a focus of their policy agenda. Here are five top priorities they can start on right away: