Skip to content


Jody Freeman

  • Jody Freeman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

    Jody Freeman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

    April 17, 2019

    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has announced that Jody Freeman LL.M. '91 S.J.D. '95, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, has been elected a member of the honorary society, one of twelve members of the Harvard faculty to receive the honor this year.

  • Trump escalates war on states’ environmental powers with order to spur pipelines

    April 11, 2019

    President Trump’s move Wednesday to limit the power of states to block oil and gas pipelines is representative of what critics say is his administration’s hypocritical approach to “cooperative federalism.” The Trump administration has rejected former President Barack Obama’s muscular approach of using federal government power to combat climate change — deferring action to states to plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector. ... “Instead of pulling up the laggards and unleashing the leader states to do more, Trump is empowering the laggard states while blocking the leaders [like California],” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard Law School professor who served as counselor for energy and climate change in the Obama White House. “It’s a remarkable turnaround.”

  • Talks to avoid a messy legal fight over California’s emissions rules appear stalled

    January 31, 2019

    Talks between the Trump administration and California over rules requiring automakers to steadily decrease car emissions are no closer to reaching a deal than when they began months ago, setting the stage for a protracted legal battle. ... “I’ve seen a lot of going through the motions,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard environmental law professor who is not involved in the current talks but worked on the first set of national vehicle emissions standards under President Obama. During those negotiations, Freeman said she required agency staff with technical expertise to be deeply involved.

  • How Trump Is Ensuring That Greenhouse Gas Emissions Will Rise

    November 27, 2018

    ...In almost two years since taking office, Mr. Trump has denied the scientific reality of climate change and taken aggressive steps that will increase emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases — despite unequivocal scientific evidence that those pollutants are warming the planet to dangerous levels...“These are life-extension projects for coal plants,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former counsel to the Obama administration. “It’s a very calculated effort to go in the opposite direction from what’s needed.”

  • Trump Put a Low Cost on Carbon Emissions. Here’s Why It Matters.

    August 28, 2018

    How much economic damage will global warming cause? That’s one of the key questions embedded in the Trump administration’s recent proposals to weaken Obama-era regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from both vehicles and power plants...“Typically, an agency gets some latitude to set standards a bit more or less stringently,” said Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard Law School. “But if you can show the agency to be glaringly wrong in its analysis — they ignore obvious counterarguments, they cherry-pick the data to support their outcome, they make numbers up — you can get a court to strike the standards down.”

  • What the case of a killer whale tells us about Brett Kavanaugh

    August 27, 2018

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has demonstrated a deep suspicion of government regulation, a pattern aligned with the Trump administration and perhaps best exemplified by his dissent in the case of a killer whale that attacked a SeaWorld trainer...Kavanaugh, as well as some of the Supreme Court's more conservative justices, question a longstanding legal principle dictating that judges defer to agencies' interpretations of vague and open-ended statutes, as long as the interpretations are reasonable. They counter that if there's new problem to solve, Congress should address it with a new law. That would inevitably lead to less regulation, observes Harvard law professor Jody Freeman, who specializes in administrative law and environmental issues. "If you hamstring the agencies and say every time there's a new issue, every time there's a new problem ... you have to go back and get express permission from Congress, that's a way of saying, you don't want the agencies to do very much. Congress doesn't produce much new law now."

  • Trump issues rollback of Obama’s biggest climate rule

    August 21, 2018

    The Trump administration rolled out its proposal for gutting former President Barack Obama’s most sweeping climate change regulation Tuesday — a move that could also block any future Democratic president from trying to put it back together....Former Obama White House climate aide Jody Freeman expressed some concern that the court battle to follow could leave EPA with diminished authority to regulate greenhouse gases at all, unless Congress steps in with a new law. “There’s certainly a legal pathway in which a court could lock in such a narrow reading that it would be very problematic for a future administration,” said Freeman, who is now director of Harvard Law School’s environment and energy program. “There’s also a pathway in which a court could uphold what one administration does and leave room for another to change its mind.”

  • 2018 last lecturers

    Faculty have the ‘last’ word

    August 7, 2018

    This spring, Professors Jody Freeman, Alex Whiting, Carol Steiker and Paul Butler each shared personal stories and experiences with a group of soon-to-be graduates poised to enter the new phase of Life After HLS as part of the Last Lecture Series, an event sponsored annually by the 3L and LL.M. Class Marshals.

  • Trump’s Biggest Climate Move Yet is Bad for Everyone

    August 2, 2018

    An op-ed by Jody Freeman. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation moved Thursday to fulfill President Trump’s promise to undo landmark Obama-era rules requiring automakers to steadily reduce greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks and improve fuel efficiency through 2025. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, with the biggest share coming from cars and trucks. Yet the government now plans to freeze fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards indefinitely at levels set for 2020, thwarting progress on addressing climate change. To make sure it accomplishes that goal, the Trump administration also wants to strip California of its authority to set stricter greenhouse gas standards for vehicles sold within its borders, which the state is authorized to do under a longstanding provision of the Clean Air Act.

  • Reagan fought for California’s right to require tough fuel standards. Trump might try to reverse it.

    July 31, 2018

    The Trump administration has drafted a plan to freeze fuel-efficiency standards for the nation’s cars and light trucks, reversing the Obama-era push for cleaner vehicles and marking one of President Trump’s most significant regulatory rollbacks to date. As part of the far-reaching proposal expected to be released this week, the White House will also attempt to revoke California’s ability to set stricter tailpipe standards than those of the federal government...“It’s had a transformational impact,” said Jody Freeman, an expert in environmental law and a professor at Harvard Law School. “It was directly responsible for many advancements that make cars better, stronger and more efficient.”

  • Top Trump Officials Clash Over Plan to Let Cars Pollute More

    July 31, 2018

    ...With the retirement of the Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who often served as a swing vote on the court, Mr. Trump has nominated a judge to succeed him, Brett Kavanaugh, who is considered more reliably conservative. “They may well feel emboldened by the fact that Kennedy is retired, and they will likely see more conservative justices,” said Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard and a former adviser to President Barack Obama. However, Ms. Freeman noted that previous efforts to pre-empt such state-level authority have failed, a fact that also concerns Mr. Wheeler, according to people familiar with his thinking. “We’ve never seen a state-level waiver being revoked, and it’s not clear how that would work,” Ms. Freeman said.

  • Andrew Wheeler Is Afraid to Revoke California’s Fuel Waiver. He Should Be.

    July 31, 2018

    There’s trouble in Trumpland, and California is caught in the middle..Revoking the waiver “would be unprecedented,” says Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor. “There have been dozens of waivers that California has gotten over the decades since the 1970s, and [the EPA] has never revoked one.”

  • Trump’s Deregulators Emboldened by Kavanaugh Supreme Court Pick

    July 25, 2018

    Trump administration officials were putting the finishing touches on a strategy to roll back car pollution standards when they received a boost from an unexpected source: the Supreme Court. The announced retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the court, and the plan to replace him with a reliable conservative in Brett Kavanaugh, energized the regulators. They plan to go with the boldest option, including a challenge to California’s ability to set its own limits...Jody Freeman, a Harvard environmental law professor and an architect of the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency pact with California, said it’s not clear how Kavanaugh would view key legal questions around the fuel economy rollback. “I don’t think we have enough of a record on Kavanaugh’s views of state powers and federalism to be confident about how this particular challenge would come out,” she said.

  • Kavanaugh pick threatens EPA policies, FERC authority, lawyers say

    July 17, 2018

    ..."I think for all of these rulemakings his judicial philosophy and his temperament is to be skeptical of important, big, far-reaching agency rules, especially if they are interpreting or adapting older stuff in novel ways," said Jody Freeman, director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School. "It's all approached with this general skepticism toward overreach and ... He has no problem deciding not to defer [to federal agencies]. He has no difficulty."

  • Kavanaugh can ‘sympathize’ on climate but questions action

    July 10, 2018

    ...Of the judges who made Trump's shortlist, Kavanaugh was viewed as the most troublesome for environmentalists, said Jody Freeman, the founding director of Harvard's Environmental and Energy Law Program. That reputation might be overblown, she said. "You can't say that you always know the outcome with Brett Kavanaugh," Freeman said. "He's a very serious and very diligent judge, and he's shown himself to be persuadable."

  • Carol Stieker portrait

    Carol Steiker: ‘Choosing wisely is more important — and less important — than you might think it is’

    May 17, 2018

    Carol Steiker '86 began her Last Lecture to the class of 2018 by sharing the questions she is frequently asked by students--what electives and classes to take, what summer job they should seek--and the advice she gives them: “It doesn’t matter that much.”

  • Jody Freeman

    In Last Lecture, Jody Freeman assures graduating students: ‘You have the tools you need to become successful’

    May 10, 2018

    In her Last Lecture, Professor Jody Freeman LL.M. ’91 S.J.D. ’95 encouraged the class of 2018 to think broadly about what success means, in their future career and also in life.

  • Trump Plans to Fight California Car Rules With Twice-Failed Strategy

    May 8, 2018

    The Trump administration is preparing to battle California’s tough car pollution regulations using an approach that federal courts have already rejected. Twice. Federal regulators are drafting a proposal that takes aim at California’s cherished authority to set its own smog-busting rules. A leaked draft of the plan that is being finalized for submission to the White House shows that it wouldn’t outright revoke the state’s ability to set pollution standards, but it asserts that a 1975 law prohibits states from setting their own limits on greenhouse gas emissions...The so-called preemption argument in the draft EPA-NHTSA proposal “looks like an effort to do an end-run around the waiver,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard environmental law professor.

  • Trump EPA’s fuel economy plan could have far-reaching consequences for climate and clean air

    May 3, 2018

    The Trump administration's plan to scrap vehicle fuel economy rules would lead to a surge of oil consumption that independent researchers warn threatens to paralyze the ability of the United States to make crucial progress in confronting climate change...The Trump administration plan aims to revoke California's authority to stick to stricter emissions. Legal scholars are dubious that it would succeed. "They are doing a retread of arguments that were made during the Geroge W. Bush administration," said Jody Freeman, who was President Obama's advisor on climate change and now directs the environmental law program at Harvard. Two federal district courts rejected the arguments at that time, she said.

  • California Sues Trump Administration Over Car Emissions Rules

    May 2, 2018

    A coalition led by California sued the Trump administration over car emissions rules on Tuesday, escalating a revolt against a proposed rollback of fuel economy standards that threatens to split the country’s auto market. In a lawsuit filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, California and its coalition — 16 other states and the District of Columbia — called the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to weaken auto emissions rules unlawful and accused the agency of failing to follow its own regulations, and of violating the Clean Air Act...It is not yet clear if the E.P.A. will take those steps, but Tuesday’s lawsuit could strengthen California’s legal hand if that were to happen. “This is a preliminary challenge. It’s a shot across the bow,” said Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University who advised the Obama administration. “It sets the table to challenge the agency’s reasons for rolling back the rule, if they go ahead and do it.”

  • California Defends More Than Climate With EPA Lawsuit

    May 2, 2018

    A lawsuit that California filed Tuesday challenging the Trump administration's plan to roll back vehicle emissions standards has more at stake than pollution limits: It might also affect whether the state can retain its unique power to chart its own course in regulating tailpipe emissions. Since 1970, California has enjoyed authority from Congress to implement its own, tighter vehicle emissions standards, which more than a dozen other states also follow. Vehicle emissions last year ranked the greatest source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S...The EPA, meanwhile, "could basically ignore [California's] waiver and argue that California is pre-empted from setting standards" under the law that gives federal authorities the power to set fuel efficiency standards," or "EPA could decide to revoke it," says Jody Freeman, who served as the White House's counselor for energy and climate change from 2009-2010, and is a professor and director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School.