Judges, not Trump, will decide Obama’s environmental legacy


That’s it, Obama is no longer president. You might cry, you might be happy, but let’s
think for a moment about the environmental legacy he leaves behind. At home, Obama worked to lower emissions of
greenhouse gasses from cars and power plants; he’s boosted renewable energy; and set new
records for protecting public land. On the international level, he has spearheaded
climate deals like the Paris accord, an agreement among nearly 200 nations to lower carbon emissions
in the fight against climate change. The new president of the United States, Donald
Trump, has vowed to dismantle all that, but environmental groups are preparing to fight
back. For the next four years, when it comes to
climate policy, the place to watch isn’t the White House — it’s the courtroom. “The courts are really the area of last
resorts for a lot of environmental groups and a lot of states that have supported the
Obama administration’s agenda. A lot of environmental groups are gearing
up to fight any anti-climate action by the Trump administration already. People are fully staffed up and fully ready
to hit the green go button on litigation.” Trump’s record on the environment already
isn’t great, I mean, he said climate change is a hoax. And his actions so far don’t bode well. He nominated Exxon Mobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson
as secretary of state. His pick for the head of the Environmental
Protection Agency is Scott Pruitt, a man who’s sued the EPA over environmental regulations. His transition team also sent a questionnaire
to the Department of Energy asking for the names of employees who worked on climate policy. That’s really intimidating! Even if Trump’s team later said the questionnaire
was not authorized. Most importantly, Trump vowed to scrap the
Clean Power Plan (CPP) — Obama’s signature policy to reduce CO2 emissions. But rolling back the CPP won’t be that easy;
in fact, a lot of people are already trying. Two dozen states and industry groups have
sued the EPA, arguing that it overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act. If Trump’s EPA tries to halt that lawsuit
before a ruling is reached, several other states have vowed to sue the administration. The EPA has to follow the Clean Air Act and
regulate air pollutants in the US — and in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse
gases like CO2 are air pollutants under that law. In 2009, when the EPA determined that greenhouse
gasses like CO2 endanger people’s health and welfare. If Trump’s EPA declares that greenhouse
gas emissions aren’t dangerous to the public, environmental groups would sue, and probably
win because… “I mean, I think it would be really difficult
at this stage to argue in a legally defensible manner that there is not endangerment given
what we’re seeing with the Greenland ice melt, Antarctica, the more frequent severe
storms, long droughts — many of which have been connected to human responsibility for
CO2 and other climate-related emissions.” In short: Global Warming. The courts are likely to hear cases on a host
of other environmental issues. If endangered species aren’t protected under
the Endangered Species Act, environmental groups could sue the government for inaction. If Trump decides to undo some of the national
monuments named by Obama under the Antiquities Act, that could also wind up in the courts. How the courts will rule is difficult to predict. Trump will be able to appoint a new Supreme
Court justice, skewing the balance to the conservative side. Environmentalists also worry about some 100
plus judicial vacancies that Trump will be able to fill with his appointees. The Supreme Court will get a lot of attention,
but the federal courts pose a much more immediate opportunity. A couple of openings are at the Second Circuit,
which has ruled on water pollution before. Other openings are at the Ninth Circuit, which
is important for endangered species cases. “I think the Trump administration can do
many damaging things but ultimately, the law is on our side so we’ll win the cases if we
have to bring them against these rollbacks, and we’ll also find that they’ll lose
in the court of public opinion. because the public is in favor of these things,
not against them.” And it’s ‘wind’ up in the courtroom, not ‘wind’
up? Yeah, it is ‘wind’ up. Okay, it is spelled the same way as ‘wind.’ What the f*** I was like, I think it is ‘wind,’ but it is
spelled like ‘wind.’

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