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Jody Freeman

  • Jody Freeman discusses California’s clean energy initiatives

    August 6, 2020

    CGTN's Sean Callebs spoke with Jody Freeman, Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School about California's clean truck and other environmental initiatives.

  • How Joe Biden Could Undo Trump’s Damage to Environment

    July 10, 2020

    Donald Trump has smashed a lot of environmental china in four years. To name a few instances: he pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement (a move that becomes official on July 6, 2021); loosened automotive-mileage and power-plant-emission standards; and sought to eliminate the protected status of the sage grouse, opening up 9 million acres to oil and gas extraction. Reasonable minds may differ on the wisdom of any one of those moves, but no one can deny the unprecedented sweep of Trump’s policies. Data from Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program and Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law show that the President has signed more than 100 administrative rules, Executive Orders and acts of deregulation, 66 of which have gone into effect...It wouldn’t necessarily be easy. The U.S. would not simply be permitted to rejoin the agreement but would have to negotiate its way back in. One way to improve its chances would be for the U.S. to present an even more ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction target than it had before, says Joseph Goffman, the Harvard program’s executive director. That original target for the U.S. was a cut of 26% to 28% below 2005-level carbon emissions by 2025. If Biden agreed to more, he might win the U.S. the favor of the other 196 signatories to the pact, but then he would have to deliver; that’s where the work on the domestic side would begin...If presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden defeats Trump in November, what could he do in his own four years to undo the work of the Trump era? “The biggest, flashiest thing would be for Biden to stand up on day one and say the U.S. is recommitting itself to Paris,” says Jody Freeman, director of the Harvard program. “We should make clear we’re going to take back the reins we’ve relinquished.”

  • What Biden can do if Congress balks at his green agenda

    May 29, 2020

    Joe Biden has been wooing progressives with a list of green initiatives. But even if Democrats take control of Congress, he might have to rely on executive actions to accomplish some of his goals. The presumptive Democratic nominee for president has a $1.7 trillion climate plan that includes myriad proposals — including new regulations on car fuel efficiency, massive increases in government spending, additional taxes on greenhouse gas emissions and rejoining the Paris Agreement. But experts and advocates say Biden would likely have to adjust some of his expectations if Congress can't help, and he may not be able to achieve, for example, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Still, should he win in November, the former vice president would have a wide range of tools at his disposal to make big changes to climate and environmental policy. "When you've got the agencies of the federal government, and you've got the power to steer and direct and appoint, that's a huge power," said Jody Freeman, who leads the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School and was an environmental policy adviser in the Obama administration. "So I see what Biden could do as quite significant, even though we all think it would be pretty fabulous if Congress could do something," she said...And if Biden doesn't get any help from Congress, he might want to double down on regulations and go even further. "It's not that you have to go find other tools in the executive branch. You have to use the regulatory tools you've got to do more," said Freeman. She argued specifically that Biden could write a new version of the Clean Power Plan far more ambitious than the one the Obama administration put forward in 2015, which would have cut emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. Since then, many coal-fired power plants have been shut down, renewable power has become much cheaper, and the sector's emissions have dropped, showing it's possible to do much more, she said. "You can be ambitious with a new version of the Clean Power Plan because the sector itself has made progress, and the market forces are already driving us in that direction, with the cheap cost of natural gas, the penetration of renewables and the rest," she said.

  • Sign that points to the climate and USA in opposite directions

    No ‘silver lining’ for the climate

    April 21, 2020

    Jody Freeman discusses the progress the nation has made in protecting the environment since Earth Day was founded in 1970, the Trump administration’s efforts to undo Obama-era federal climate regulations, and COVID-19’s urgent lessons for the planet’s health.

  • This year’s US elections could be a climate-policy showdown

    March 13, 2020

    A key debate on climate change is coming into focus for November's US presidential election. Voting this week in Michigan and several other states has cemented former vice-president Joe Biden’s lead over Bernie Sanders as the person to take on president Donald Trump in November. ... A first step for any future Democratic president would be to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord and restore climate rules and regulations that Trump has been busy repealing, says Jody Freeman, an environmental-law specialist at the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a former White House adviser under Obama.

  • Trump moves to roll back landmark environmental law

    January 13, 2020

    President Trump sees federal environmental regulation as “big government at its absolute worst.” Jody Freeman, Director of the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program, joins Ali Velshi to discuss what’s at stake now that President Trump has proposed a complete overhaul of the National Environmental Policy Act.

  • Power Up: California vs. Trump: Raging wildfires show the risks of Trump’s climate approach

    October 30, 2019

    In case you haven't noticed, California's on fire. And according to scientists and environmentalists, wildfires will only increase in frequency and severity — and not just there. Scenes of elite enclaves aflame in Los Angeles and Sonoma could be a window into what the rest of the country will face in the very near future due to climate change. Yet as California burns, the Trump administration continues to target the state that has served as the nation's leader in implementing ambitious climate change policy...“I think the entire agenda of the Trump administration on climate change is at odds with the reality in California,” said Jody Freeman, the founding director of the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program who served as an energy and climate change counselor in the Obama White House. “The federal government is behaving like it’s in a different world than what the state of California is dealing with...Wildfires are raging out of control and California is keenly aware of what they need to do to solve this problem,” Freeman told Power Up, “and then you see the systematic attempt by Trump to dismantle every tool to deal with climate change…There is an element of this that almost seems mean-spirited and intentionally punitive.”

  • Professors Jody Freeman LL.M. ’91 S.J.D. ’95 and Richard Lazarus ’79.

    Potentially troubling times for environmental law in the Supreme Court, say HLS professors

    October 1, 2019

    Though the news isn’t all bad, Harvard Law Professors Jody Freeman and Richard Lazarus warned of brewing issues ahead at the annual Supreme Court Environmental Law Review and Preview.

  • Inside the Sunrise Movement: Six Weeks With the Young Activists Defining the Climate Debate

    September 23, 2019

    Ariana Grande's voice fills the rented Chrysler Pacifica minivan: “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole.” Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, bops her head, keeping her hands at ten and two on the wheel. “When did this come out?” she asks Jesse Meisenhelter, fellow Sunriser and her copilot on our 10-hour drive between Louisville and Washington, D.C. “It’s so relevant!” Humming along, Meisenhelter, 25, and Prakash, 26 (the same age as Grande), seem more like carefree coeds than leaders of a self-described “army of young people” touring the country to rally support for the Green New Deal—the polarizing climate resolution presented in February to Congress by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. ... In July, centrist Democrats in the House presented a more moderate plan to curb carbon emissions by 2050 rather than the Green New Deal’s eyebrow-raisingly ambitious goal of 2030. “We are inspired by the energy, activism, and outside mobilizing of the Sunrise Movement and the millions of young people across the country who are using their power to bring about transformational change,” Speaker Pelosi wrote me in an email. “Guided by their voices and the vision and values of our caucus, House Democrats are taking decisive action to defend the people and places we love.” When I speak to Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University and a former legal counsel in the Obama administration, she tells me that while she admires the ambitiousness of the plan, “I’m not sure that the folks pushing these policies have a pragmatic view of what is possible, given how hard this is politically.”

  • Trump Administration To Revoke California’s Power Over Car Emissions

    September 18, 2019

    NPR's David Green talks to law professor Jody Freeman, who is an ex-Obama staffer, about the expectation that the administration will revoke California's ability to set tighter environmental rules.

  • The Auto Rule Rollback That Nobody Wants, Except Trump

    September 9, 2019

    An op-ed by Jodi FreemanAuto companies prize certainty in how the government regulates them because of the long timelines involved in designing and manufacturing cars and trucks. Now the Trump administration has upended that certainty by going to extraordinary lengths to roll back Obama-era greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards that even much of the industry supports. It’s a senseless exercise of apparent presidential pique. Worse, it threatens to undo what would be the country’s most important climate achievement, the doubling of vehicle fuel efficiency to about 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Those standards all told would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by six billion metric tons, cutting auto sector emissions in half by 2025, and saved American families more than $1.7 trillion in gas, with an average fuel savings, for instance, of more than $8,000 for a 2025 model vehicle over its average lifetime.

  • Trump Administration Challenges California And Automakers On Fuel Economy

    September 8, 2019

    The Trump administration says a deal between California and four carmakers to improve fuel efficiency may be illegal. The Justice Department has also launched a probe to see whether it violates antitrust laws. Together, the moves raise the stakes in a months-long standoff over efforts to weaken a key Obama-era climate rule. ...  All this could set up an "epic" legal battle, says Jody Freeman, who served under the Obama administration and is now at Harvard Law School. She says the EPA under President George W. Bush also rejected California's emissions waiver, but "that hasn't been tested in the courts, so we don't know how it would come out." Freeman also says it is "astonishing" that President Trump is pushing so hard for an aggressive rollback that automakers don't want, when they've made clear they would accept a more moderate compromise.

  • New Dorian Forecast: Storm Could Make Landfall in the Carolinas

    September 5, 2019

    Jody Freeman comments on hurricanes and climate change policy.

  • Bernie Sanders offers a massive climate plan. Environmentalists cheer, but will it be too much for voters?

    August 27, 2019

    Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a $16.3 trillion climate plan Thursday, an expansive blueprint meant to enlarge American ambitions on combating planetary warming in a presidential campaign already marked by aggressive Democratic approaches...“I see these proposals as both markers and mobilizing tools,” said Jody Freeman, who was a climate adviser to Obama and now teaches at Harvard Law School. “They are a marker that says, ‘We care about climate change. We really, really do.’ And they are a mobilizing tool because we are in a primary and the idea is to try to attract the left side of the spectrum.”

  • Bernie Sanders offers a massive climate plan. Environmentalists cheer, but will it be too much for voters?

    August 26, 2019

    Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a $16.3 trillion climate plan Thursday, an expansive blueprint meant to enlarge American ambitions on combating planetary warming in a presidential campaign already marked by aggressive Democratic approaches...“I see these proposals as both markers and mobilizing tools,” said Jody Freeman, who was a climate adviser to Obama and now teaches at Harvard Law School. “They are a marker that says, ‘We care about climate change. We really, really do.’ And they are a mobilizing tool because we are in a primary and the idea is to try to attract the left side of the spectrum.”

  • Here’s what environmentalists are really worried about with Trump’s new power plant rule

    August 20, 2019

    Attorneys general from about two dozen Democratic states are challenging the Trump administration’s rollback of one of President Obama’s signature climate regulations. But what the blue state lawyers are really worried about is how the rule may limit future administrations from tackling heat-trapping pollution. ... The case, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, could wind its way to the Supreme Court should Trump win a second term and stop a Democratic rival from repealing his rule before it reaches the high court. "No doubt, it’s going to be a grinding legal battle," said Jody Freeman, founding director of Harvard Law School's the environmental law program.

  • Why environmentalists are worried about Trump’s new power plant rule

    August 14, 2019

    Attorneys general from about two dozen Democratic states are challenging the Trump administration's rollback of one of President Barack Obama's signature climate regulations. But what the blue state lawyers are really worried about is how the rule may limit future administrations from tackling heat-trapping pollution. ... The case, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, could wind its way to the Supreme Court should Trump win a second term and stop a Democratic rival from repealing his rule before it reaches the high court. "No doubt, it's going to be a grinding legal battle," said Jody Freeman, founding director of Harvard Law School's the environmental law program.

  • Environmental protections on the line

    August 5, 2019

    Despite President Trump’s efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations on fuel efficiency standards, California just made a deal with four automakers to continue reducing emissions. The Trump administration has targeted 80 plus environmental regulations involving air and water pollution, drilling, toxic chemicals, and protecting land and wildlife.  We start this hour with a look at the White House attempt to weaken environmental rules, how far they’ve gotten, and the legal challenges they’re facing with JODY FREEMAN, professor of environmental law at Harvard Law School. Then, can you imagine living without any plastic? No plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic toothbrushes or shampoo bottles? Some people are trying to go plastic-free but with varying success. Plastic is everywhere. We’ll talk about the challenges of trying not to use plastic, if it’s worth the effort, and get tips for your next trip to the supermarket. Our guest is DIANNA COHEN, co-founder and CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

  • Justice Stevens Ruling Set Groundwork For US Climate Policy

    July 23, 2019

    Justice John Paul Stevens' landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA forced the federal government to address the problem of climate change and unleashed a flood of decarbonization policies, a deluge that the Trump administration is trying to reverse. Justice Stevens, who died Tuesday, penned the 5-4 majority opinion in 2007 that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and subject to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation. Twelve states, led by Massachusetts, along with several cities and environmental groups had sued the EPA seeking to force it to regulate GHGs. The decision is considered one of the most important U.S. environmental law rulings ever made. ... “It showed that Justice Stevens was a consensus builder, somebody who could write an opinion in a way that would attract, not repel, votes,” said Jody Freeman, the founding director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program and a former Obama energy and climate change counselor. “That's a very important skill for a Supreme Court justice.”

  • E.P.A. Finalizes Its Plan to Replace Obama-Era Climate Rules

    June 25, 2019

    The Trump administration on Wednesday replaced former President Barack Obama’s effort to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal plants with a new rule that would keep plants open longer and undercut progress on reducing carbon emissions. The rule represents the Trump administration’s most direct effort to protect the coal industry. It is also another significant step in dismantling measures aimed at combating global warming, including the rollback of tailpipe emissions standards and the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement...Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University and a former legal counsel in the Obama administration, said it would be “a blockbuster” if the Trump rule reached the Supreme Court and justices endorsed the administration approach. “It could foreclose a new administration from doing something more ambitious,” she said. “No matter how you slice it, this is a dramatic retrenchment” Ms. Freeman said. “It’s not just that they’re doing very small, modest steps to reduce emissions. It’s that they’re not creating momentum to substitute renewables and substitute natural gas for coal. That’s what the Obama rule was doing, and it had a long-term view to bigger emission cuts over time.”

  • The Energy 202: Ex-EPA engineer says Wheeler is misleading Congress about car rule

    June 25, 2019

    Jeff Alson was sitting in his apartment in Ann Arbor, Mich., when he felt like he was going to explode. The retired environmental engineer, who worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for 40 years, had just read a letter written by one of his old bosses, agency chief Andrew Wheeler. In it, Wheeler told Congress that EPA career experts had not been cut out of the process of crafting one of the Trump administration's most controversial environmental proposals to date — one that would abandon one of President Barack Obama's signature climate policies. Alson was one of those EPA experts before retiring in April 2018. He was fuming, he later said, because he believed what Wheeler was saying was wrong...California and other states have vowed to challenge the freezing of the fuel-efficiency standards in court once they are finalized. If the EPA's technical staff were cut out of the process, as Alson contends, that may provide fodder for a lawsuit. “The Clean Air Act requires EPA to be 'the decider' for its own rules, so IF it could be clearly shown in the record that EPA relinquished decision-making authority to NHTSA, that could be a problem for EPA in the courts,” Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program, wrote by email.