What Legal Authority Would an Emergency Climate Declaration Give the President?
What government powers would be unlocked by declaring a climate change emergency? One immediate possibility would be to use the same power that former President Trump used to divert military construction funds to other uses — in this case, perhaps building wind or solar farms or new transmission lines. But what else could President Biden do?
The Brennan Center has compiled a helpful list of almost 150 statutes giving the president special powers during emergencies. The list doesn’t map the outer perimeter of presidential powers — there are other laws that give presidents powers to take action on the basis of national security, and the president also has some ill-defined, though not unlimited, powers to take action without explicit congressional authorization. But the list provides a good start.
Here are some of the possibilities:
This is the first of two posts on wage theft and how it hurts workers, families, and communities. For the next post on wage theft and forced arbitration, check this space on Wednesday, July 20.
Wage theft is a massive crisis for workers, but federal, state, and local agencies have failed to address the problem. Wage theft occurs in many forms: Paying wages lower than the minimum wage, not paying overtime wages, coercing employees to work "off the clock" before or after shifts, prohibiting workers from taking legally mandated breaks, confiscating tips, and more.
A 2021 report from the Economic Policy Institute found that workers are deprived of an estimated $15 billion per year through minimum wage violations alone, but state and federal enforcement only recovered $1.7 billion in unlawfully withheld wages between 2017 and 2020 — only 2.8 percent of the estimated $60 billion stolen …
Based on press reports, it now seems likely that President Joe Biden will soon declare climate change to be a national emergency. Would this be legal? Would it unlock important powers that could be used to fight climate change? My answers are: It would probably be legal, and it would unlock some significant powers. But an emergency declaration is not a magic wand that gives presidents a blank check. It would allow some constructive steps to be taken, but within limits.
I wrote several blog posts about the idea of a climate emergency in 2019. Back then, interest in presidential emergency powers had been sparked by former President Trump’s use of emergency power to help build his border wall. I’ve adapted the …
The apparent death of an urgently needed clean energy and climate justice bill is a staggering loss for the country and the climate.
Because no Senate Republicans were expected to support the legislation, passage fell to Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate — and efforts to make an intraparty deal failed to emerge despite months of effort.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) had reportedly reached an agreement on a prescription drug plan — a major sticking point in negotiations over the legislation, originally known as the Build Back Better Act. But Manchin effectively killed the bill’s clean energy provisions on July 14.
Left on the Senate’s cutting room floor appear to be up to $300 billion in clean energy provisions, including:
This op-ed was originally published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. It is reprinted here with permission.
The rally outside New York City Hall was a familiar scene of speakers and placards decrying the injustice of near-poverty-level wages. The hundreds of workers gathered that day in March demanded a minimum wage of $21 per hour and a 6 percent cost-of-living adjustment — not unreasonable given the cost of living there.
What made this rally different was that the workers were not protesting Amazon or other large corporations. They were nonprofit workers seeking better pay from the food pantries, domestic-violence shelters, and foster-care groups they serve.
In New York State, human-service workers earn only 70 percent of what their counterparts at government agencies are paid — not enough to survive in normal times, let alone during a period of escalating inflation. Given the demographics of the state’s human-service workers — 66 …
Duke Energy, a major corporation with near-monopoly control over North Carolina’s electric grid, has outsized influence over the state’s decarbonization plan, which is now under review. The state legislature ordered the utility commission to make a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Duke Energy has submitted a plan to the commission to meet those goals, but the plan fails to take affordability and equity into full account. What’s worse: Low-wealth people aren’t required — or, in many cases, even able — to participate in the planning process. They’re shut out.
For too many low-wealth North Carolina residents, energy bills are already too high. These communities have contributed little to climate change, but they face steep increases in electricity rates as the planet heats up and storms become more frequent and severe. There is a better …
An article co-written by Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar David Adelman and Attorney Advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) Jori Reilly-Diakun was selected for inclusion in this year’s Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review (ELPAR). ELPAR is a student-edited volume published annually in the August issue of the Environmental Law Reporter. It features abridged versions of selected articles with commentary from environmental experts.
Adelman, a law professor at the University of Texas, holds a Ph.D. in chemical physics and a law degree from Stanford University. Previously, he worked on environmental cases as a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, promoting environmentally conscious practices. He was appointed to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Advisory Board and has served on multiple committees as a science expert.
His and Reilly-Diakun’s article, “Environmental Citizen Suits and the Inequities of …
The Center for Progressive Reform has joined close to 1,000 organizations and individuals in providing comments on California's long-awaited plan for achieving carbon neutrality, the Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update (Draft Plan). Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state agency tasked with coordinating the plan, a daunting challenge: achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 at the latest.
Our comments conclude that the state should (1) be more ambitious, (2) more explicitly achieve multiple objectives, including environmental justice, and (3) develop a supplemental plan that more specifically outlines the policy tools the state will employ to achieve its objectives.
Reduce Reliance on Fossil Fuels More Quickly
The Draft Plan's 2045 timeline — spanning more than two decades — will perpetuate fossil fuel use and associated pollution. The plan proposes deadlines for ending the sale of fossil-fuel based goods, like trucks, cars, and appliances, but assumes …
Throughout the first half of 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced several actions in pursuit of the goals it laid out in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap — the blueprint it released last October outlining plans for addressing widespread PFAS contamination in the United States.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of more than 9,000 synthetic chemicals that pose serious risks to human health, including increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, abnormal liver function, decreased birth weights, and certain cancers. Exposure to even extremely low levels of certain PFAS are unsafe for humans.
For most people, the primary source of PFAS exposure is drinking water contaminated by industrial discharge and runoff of PFAS-containing foam used by firefighters and members of the military. Through a comprehensive analysis of state and federal reports, the Environmental Working Group found PFAS contaminates thousands of water …
In West Virginia v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court slayed a phantom, a regulation that does not exist. Why? The justices in the majority could not contain their zeal to hollow out the EPA’s ability to lessen suffering from climate change in ways that impinge the profits of entrenched fossil fuel interests.
In doing so, the activist justices reached out to interpret the Clean Air Act despite the Court’s traditional restraint in deciding only cases where plaintiffs suffering individualized harm present a focused, redressable dispute. The Court has been particularly strict in foreclosing judicial review when environmental plaintiffs complain about prospective rules and actions. But today’s decision eagerly engaged with the speculative harms presented by West Virginia and coal companies. They were not harmed by a regulation that never took effect and that never will be implemented.
In its “what if” analysis, the …