Supreme Court decision bodes well for climate

by John Schwartz, The New York Times


  • A new ruling in the Supreme Court on a major piece of LGBTQ+ civil rights legislation may pave the way for environmentalists to use the Clean Air Act as a means to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Supreme Court case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, resulted in protections for gay and transgender people from discrimination at work
  • Justice Neil M. Gorsuch ruled that gay and transgender people were included in the definition of “sex” within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars workplace discrimination because of sex and other factors
  • Ann E. Carlson, climate change law expert at UCLA, says that this new ruling may be cited in order to help persuade the court that GHG regulation is within the text of the Clean Air Act
  • According to a few Supreme Court justices, the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the power to regulate GHG’s because the Clean Air Act doesn’t specifically address climate change

Endorsing The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California platform will help ensure that state policy timelines are accelerated while securing an equitable and just transition to a clean energy future.

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Environmental groups sue EPA over ‘reckless’ response to coronavirus


The National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of a dozen environmental groups.

  • Environmental groups across the country petitioned the EPA to publish an emergency rule that requires polluters to submit a public notice that they are taking advantage of newly relaxed emissions and pollutions standards
    • This petition comes days after the EPA relaxed pollution standards at the request of an oil industry trade group claiming it was necessary to loosen regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • These relaxed pollution standards will affect drinking water and air quality which directly impacts public health, especially in fence-line communities that border refineries and factories
    • Even with previous environmental regulations, these communities are still greatly impacted by emissions
    • A study focused on health hazards in vulnerable communities found that nearly 12,500 high-risk chemical facilities across the country place 39% of the U.S. population (124 million people) in constant risk of a chemical disaster, disproportionately affecting communities of color 
  • Juan Parras, founder and executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.), says relaxing these regulations is a direct violation of the EPA’s main objective:

“The EPA, in allowing this to happen, is basically going against its very core value, which is to protect health and human safety [against] industrial pollution,” 

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean electricity is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.

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Trump’s move to suspend enforcement of environmental laws is a lifeline to the oil industry

By Marianne Levelle, Inside Climate News


The Trump administration suspended U.S. environmental laws due to calls for help from the American Petroleum Institute. The suspension of the rules will ultimately lead to more pollution, making more people in frontline communities susceptible to health risks, including COVID-19. 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced a policy that suspended enforcement and civil penalties for regulated entities that can prove the ongoing pandemic caused failure to comply with the law, allowing the oil industry to violate air and water pollution regulations at refineries
  • Gina McCarthy of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calls the policy “an open license to pollute.” 
  • The industry sought out federal help after oil prices crashed due to Saudi  Arabia’s increase in oil production which impacted Russian and U.S. oil markets
  • Some members of Congress and oil executives wanted help in the form of direct financial support or trade halts with Saudi Arabia
  • The suspension of environmental laws will cause more pollution in communities surrounding refineries, making people more vulnerable to the respiratory effects of COVID-19

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must re-examine the ways in which we move around. The Climate Center is committed to working with state and local lawmakers to put us on track for a Climate-Safe California, which will include climate-safe transportation.

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Judge orders EPA to disclose any science backing up Pruitt’s climate claims

by Megan Geuss, ARS Technica

In March 2017, Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, appeared on CNBC and said that carbon dioxide was not known to be a major factor in climate change. “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said, adding, “there’s a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact” of “human activity on the climate.”

Based on what?

The next day, a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the EPA, asking for any agency documents that Administrator Pruitt may have relied on to come to his conclusions. Since Pruitt’s words contradicted scientific evidence shared by the EPA before the administrator took office, PEER’s request might turn up some recent document that indicated Pruitt had new information.

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Methane Rule

Court blocks E.P.A. effort to suspend Obama-era methane rule

by Lisa Friedman, NY Times

WASHINGTON — Dealing a legal blow to the Trump administration, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot suspend an Obama-era rule to restrict methane emissions from new oil and gas wells.

The 2-to-1 decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a legal setback for Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, who is trying to roll back dozens of Obama-era environmental regulations. The ruling signals that the Trump administration’s efforts to simply delay environmental and public health actions are likely to face an uphill battle in the courts and require a more painstaking process.

The administration had suffered several reversals in federal court to its plans to limit immigration from a group of majority-Muslim nations until the Supreme Court allowed part of the policy to proceed late last month. A federal judge in California also blocked the administration’s threat to penalize cities that provide legal sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

A number of other Trump administration actions to undo regulations it inherited, including a rule on grizzly bear protection and another on chemical spills, are likely to receive close scrutiny from the courts.

Mr. Pruitt had imposed a 90-day moratorium, which he later extended to two years, on enforcement of parts of the E.P.A. methane regulation. He had also argued that his action was not subject to court review. But the appeals court ruled that the agency’s decision was “unreasonable,” “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The agency, it said, did not have authority under the Clean Air Act to block the rule.

“E.P.A.’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule,” Judges David Tatel and Robert Wilkins wrote. The third member of the three-judge panel, Janice Rogers Brown, dissented.

The judges said that the agency had the right to reverse the methane regulations but would have to undertake a new rule-making process to undo the Obama administration’s regulation.

An E.P.A. spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the opinion and would weigh its options.
Critics say the Trump administration has improperly delayed other regulations as well, and have challenged a May E.P.A. decision to suspend for 90 days a rule aimed at cutting methane emissions from landfills.

In June, the Interior Department also delayed for two years a set of rules that would have limited the release of methane from wells on federal and tribal lands. That rule has been in the administration’s cross hairs, but an attempt to reverse it in Congress failed when Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and two other Republicans defected.

The administration has also used the delay tactic to stop a Food and Drug Administration rule requiring restaurants to list the calories in the food they sell and a Labor Department regulation mandating that financial advisers put consumers’ best interests ahead of their own.

The E.P.A. has been in the vanguard of the administration’s attempts to dismantle what Mr. Trump and his advisers consider an oppressive regulatory state. In a February executive order, Mr. Trump instructed cabinet officers to look for every opportunity “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.”

Monday’s court ruling signals that this will not be accomplished overnight.

The administration has had some success in delaying or reversing former President Barack Obama’s climate change and environmental policies, but other actions face serious legal hurdles. After the E.P.A. allowed farmers to continue to use a pesticide called chlorpyrifos that has been found to harm children’s brains, California and six other states challenged the decision.

And the effort to reverse the Clean Power Plan regulation on power plant carbon emissions — the rule at the heart of Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda — could take years. Mr. Pruitt is expected to publish the details of his plan to repeal the regulation in the coming weeks.

David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he believed the administration would be on the losing end of those battles.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many court setbacks for Scott Pruitt, whose devotion to the law is rhetorical and not real,” he said.

The methane rule was part of a broad suite of climate regulations enacted by Mr. Obama. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Oil and gas companies have argued that the rule requiring them to report and fix any methane leaks in their equipment is an unnecessary burden because many oil-producing states already have their own regulations. The E.P.A. announced on June 5 that it was suspending enforcement of the rule, arguing that the industry had not had enough opportunity to comment. The court rejected that argument.

“The court’s decision ends the continued pollution by the oil and gas industry that’s been illegally allowed by Pruitt,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said that standards set in 2012 were already reducing methane emissions. “A stay is needed to allow for regulatory certainty as E.P.A. continues the formal process to review the rule making,” he said in a statement.