Biden orders review and reversal of over 100 Trump administration environmental regulations
The New York Times – January 20
President Joe Biden this Wednesday recommitted the United States to the Paris climate agreement and ordered federal agencies to start reviewing and reinstating more than 100 environmental regulations that were weakened or rolled back by the Trump administration. More specifically, federal agencies are directed to review all decisions over the past four years “that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” That includes reinstating regulations that restrict greenhouse emissions from automobile tailpipes and methane leaks from oil and gas wells, as well as replacing energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings. Also on Wednesday, Biden rescinded the construction permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have transported carbon-heavy oil from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast.
DC Circuit rejects rollback of power plant emission rules
Courthouse News Service – January 19
This Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit struck down former President Donald Trump’s 2019 Affordable Clean Energy rule, known as the ACE rule, which had dropped all statewide emissions caps, giving state regulators greater autonomy and more time to reduce pollution. “The [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA here failed to rely on its own judgment and expertise, and instead based its decision on an erroneous view of the law,” the ruling states, noting federal law does not limit the agency to implementing rules that apply directly “at the source” of power plant emissions. The court held that there is “no basis—grammatical, contextual, or otherwise—for the EPA’s assertion” about source-specific language in federal law that it claims limits its oversight of fossil fuel power sources.
Supreme Court considers Baltimore suit against oil companies over climate change
San Francisco Chronicle – January 19
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in the case filed by the City of Baltimore (City) against major oil companies to recoup billions of dollars in alleged damages to cover the costs of climate change they argue are attributable to the fossil fuel industry. San Francisco and neighboring communities began filing similar lawsuits four years ago, with nearly two dozen cities, counties, and states nationwide following suit. The Supreme Court will not decide the merits, only a procedural question -- whether the city’s case should be taken up by state or federal court. Several appellate courts, including the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, have ruled that state court is the appropriate venue, given that the lawsuits seek damages under state public nuisance, consumer protection, and other state laws. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal had agreed with that argument in the city’s case, and defendants appealed to the Supreme Court. The defendant oil companies argue that such lawsuits implicate the development of national energy policy and related legislation and regulation and should therefore be heard by the federal courts.
Lawsuit alleges federal government failed to protect rare L.A. fish species
Los Angeles Daily News – January 18
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prepare an updated recovery plan or to take other urgent steps to preserve Southern California’s unarmored threespine stickleback, a tiny scaleless fish known for its elaborate mating rituals. CBD alleges that the critically endangered species formerly inhabited the Los Angeles River and other nearby streams, but now survives only in the upper Santa Clara River watershed near the Angeles National Forest and a single creek in Santa Barbara County. A stickleback recovery plan was created in 1985, but it did not satisfy the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, according to the lawsuit.
Scientists worry that California’s ‘fossil water’ is vanishing
The Mercury News – January 17
New research on fossil water, ancient aquifers created by rain and snow that fell more than 10,000 years ago, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory suggests that managers of drinking wells that pump fossil water cannot rely on it being replenished — especially during times of drought. The study found clear evidence that 7% of the 2,330 California’s drinking wells tested are pumping fossil water — and 22% of those wells are pumping mixed-age water containing at least some ancient water. That means that many Californians are already using fossil water to shower, flush their toilets and irrigate their lawns without knowing it. Scientists say that further mapping out where fossil water is located and pinpointing the areas that depend on the ancient resource could help lead to better groundwater management and ensure that supplies are sustained to meet future needs.