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Why This Matters: The likelihood of a divided government has led many legal and climate experts to worry that a Biden administration will be hamstrung on climate change. New laws are unlikely and regulation changes take time and could ultimately get hung up in courts that are now more conservative than ever. But even just the threat of enforcement — which has not been present in several years — could be enough to improve the situation on air and water pollution in many industrial areas.
Supreme Court Intrigue
The largest oil companies filed a brief yesterday with the Supreme Court asking the Justices to force climate litigation into federal courts as opposed to state ones. In this case, the City of Baltimore is suing the oil giants on climate change grounds for damages to cities caused by climate change, but many cities have filed similar cases in state courts around the country. The oil companies argue that these cases belong in federal court because they involve “interstate” pollution and “address “federal interest in setting domestic and foreign policy on matters involving energy, the environment, and the economy,” Axios reports. Interestingly, the Supreme Court will not hear the substantive climate claims — the court agreed to take the case but is only looking at the procedural question about which court should hear the cases. In a Biden administration, legal experts believe that the Justice Department, which has filed briefs in support of the oil companies, could reverse course and support the cities on this procedural question.
Supplemental Environmental Projects
Last March, the Trump administration nixed a popular tool in environmental enforcement cases known as “supplemental environmental projects” or “SEPs” arguing that these “in-kind” payback projects “unlawfully divert” penalty money that would otherwise flow to the U.S. Treasury. SEPs have been used for decades — in Republican and Democratic administrations — allowing companies accused of pollution violations to voluntarily conduct environmentally beneficial projects in affected communities—sometimes in exchange for lower fines. Many environmental lawyers would like to see them come back. John Cruden — one of the nation’s most prominent environmental lawyers (and Friend of the Planet) who led the environment division under President Barack Obama, called on the Biden administration to quickly rescind the Trump administration policy eliminating SEPs.
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor With less than one week left until COP26, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has moved his government to the left on climate change, committing for the first time to a net zero target by 2050, but questions remain about the details and many remain frustrated by Morrison’s refusal to […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have hit a three-million-year high, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report published yesterday. Despite a brief dip in emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall trend of increasing emissions continues, indicating last year’s dip had little to no impact on […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A report in the Dasgupta Review shows that by using a fiscal lens to view Earth’s growing biodiversity loss, we can see how it links to economic development. By viewing nature as an asset like “produced capital (roads, buildings and factories)” or “human capital (health, knowledge and skills)” — […]
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