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Joseph Goffman

  • ‘Everything related to the environment is at stake’

    November 2, 2020

    Paul Farrell has spent his career tackling one of the state’s most intractable environmental problems — dirty air — clocking 27 years at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection alone, the last two as director of air planning. So when Farrell says, “I think the environmental stakes of the upcoming election are as significant as I’ve ever seen in my career,” he knows what he’s talking about. To be clear, the state’s battle with the Trump administration isn’t its first but, as Farrell points out, it’s one for the books. “I’m tracking right now somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 different environmental actions EPA has taken in different areas,” Farrell said. “Without a doubt, they’re all weakening some standards in some form or fashion.” And that’s just air quality issues. In nearly four years, the Trump administration has endeavored to roll back some 100 environmental regulations and policies as documented by The New York Times from databases at Harvard University, Columbia University and others. Then there are a hefty number of new regulations and policies. And let’s not forget the court actions...Joseph Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard, who has also served in numerous environmental roles in government, called the Trump administration approach to weakening environmental rules “horrifying.” “Whenever it does a rule that weakens pollution standards, it goes the route of articulating a new legal theory that has the effect of restricting EPA’s authority at the threshold,” he said. “They’re trying to create a legacy for their successor of an EPA and a Clean Air Act that are much less powerful as toolboxes for dealing with air pollution and climate change.” Such concerns have given rise to speculation about whether a second Trump administration would go after some of the biggest bedrocks, not just of environmental law, but also of administrative law... “The effect of the Trump rollbacks of climate regulation is that we will have lost time and we have lost another increment of climate stability that we will not be able to recover,” Goffman said, noting the greenhouse gas emissions of the Trump era so far will remain in the atmosphere for a long time. “The five years of emissions that we will have to see – there’s no way to offset them. There’s no way to reel them back.”

  • Trump’s EPA rewrote the rules on air, water energy. Now voters face a choice on climate change issues

    October 29, 2020

    Cherise Harris noticed a change in her eldest daughter soon after the family moved a block away from a 132-year-old coal-fired power plant in Painesville, Ohio. The teen’s asthma attacks occurred more frequently, Harris said, and she started carrying an inhaler with her at all times. The family didn’t know it at the time, but Painesville’s municipal-owned plant emits nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide – two pollutants that the American Lung Association says inflames air passages, causing shortness of breath, chest tightness, pain and wheezing...Under President Donald Trump's rule, the Painesville plant – and nearly 200 other coal-powered electric utilities like it – can emit more such pollutants, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own projections. The rule is one of nearly 100 environmental rollbacks the Trump administration has pursued over the past four years to loosen regulations on everything from air and water quality to wildlife...The void of federal regulations has left some states, which are already in the midst of declining revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic, trying to maintain pre-Trump standards. “The obvious thing (the rules) do is weaken pollution standards, or weaken environmental protections," said Joseph Goffman, a former assistant administrator at the EPA and now the executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard University. "As they go into effect, the public is exposed to more pollution, more environmental damage, more emissions of greenhouse gases, than they otherwise would be exposed to thanks to these rules.” “But these rules do something else," Goffman said – what the administration really wants is to undo the law...At the same time, EPA's authority has become restricted and limited for the first time in decades since landmark environmental laws were enacted, according to more than a dozen experts and former EPA staff members interviewed for this story. With the rule changes, the “interruption of progress represents a loss of time that will never be recovered," Goffman said. "Time is of the essence, in terms of dealing with climate change.”

  • Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett’s climate change comments

    October 16, 2020

    Environmentalists are sounding the alarm over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s comments this week casting doubt on the science of climate change, saying her remarks should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court. During two days of questioning at her Senate confirmation hearing, Barrett called climate change a “contentious matter of public debate” and said she didn’t think her “views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge.” Earlier, she told the Senate Judiciary Committee she did not have “firm views” on climate change. Her comments sent ripples through the scientific community given the overwhelming evidence of human-driven climate change...Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law’s Environmental and Energy Law Program, warned that if the clean energy rule case made it to the Supreme Court, industry briefings on the power plant rule could lead to questions on a court precedent that established the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “If the court decides to take up again the fundamental question that was decided in Massachusetts v. EPA, that’s where you would start to worry about her professed doubts about the science of climate change,” added Goffman, who also served as an EPA lawyer during the Obama administration. However, he said Barrett’s views on climate change wouldn’t necessarily mean she would rule to overturn climate or emissions-related cases; whether she feels an obligation to continue with past precedent would be another major factor. “If the premise of the issue was that human-caused climate change was an established fact, I think she would be as much likely to be bound by she would by her own views of science,” he said, adding that the “specific legal context” of the issues would also be important determinants.

  • D.C. Circuit showdown over Trump carbon rule begins

    October 9, 2020

    EPA will make a high-stakes courtroom argument today in favor of a more restrictive view of the federal government's authority to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The agency is coming before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this morning in a long-anticipated hearing to defend the Trump administration's move last year to undo President Obama's landmark 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. EPA claims it can only take regulatory action that can be applied directly to coal-fired power plants, rather than take a systemwide approach championed by the agency under Obama... "What really heightens the risk for the government is that you have two judges on the panel that heard not just the agency making a different argument, but — even if in the end they didn't agree with the 2016 version of the agency's argument — they certainly spent a lot of time themselves examining the play in the joints [of the statute]," said Joe Goffman, executive director of the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard University Law School and a key architect of the CPP. "That 4-year-old experience, I would argue, conditioned any judges who participated in that oral argument to see the language in dispute now as being more flexible than the EPA is now insisting that it is," he added.

  • Judges Hear Arguments in President Trump’s Biggest Climate Rollback

    October 9, 2020

    A three-judge panel appeared divided Thursday on President Trump’s effort to repeal his predecessor’s regulations on planet-warming emissions from the power sector and replace them with far weaker controls. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbiapanel, with two judges named by President Barack Obama and one by President Trump, could well agree to block the Trump administration’s plan, but the issue is almost sure to reach the Supreme Court if Mr. Trump is re-elected. Even if Mr. Trump loses next month, the arguments by the Environmental Protection Agency laid the groundwork for a protracted legal war over future administrations’ ability to cut the pollution responsible for climate change from the power sector, the country’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions... “The Trump administration has really taken a go-for-broke approach,” said Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard University Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program and a former E.P.A. official under President Barack Obama. If the administration’s arguments prevail, he said, “Then they’ve really advanced a broader project that the Trump administration has been pursuing to not only repeal individual rules, but to narrow the foundation of the federal government in doing any kind of regulation.”

  • Amy Coney Barrett on Court Seen Handcuffing Agencies’ Climate-Change Fight

    October 7, 2020

    The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court could make it harder for future administrations to adapt laws that have been on the books for decades to meet emerging challenges such as climate change. That’s because Barrett’s confirmation would strengthen a conservative bloc of justices who take a narrow view of federal agency power -- potentially spelling doom for efforts to write regulations to thwart greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental justice. The prospect is driving a wave of opposition to Barrett from environmental groups, which have joined abortion rights advocates and gun control supporters in vigorously fighting the appeals court judge’s nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court...Barrett’s three-year-tenure as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals provides a limited view of her approach to federal regulation and environmental policy. And the previous opinions of Supreme Court nominees are not always a reliable indicator of how justices perform once installed on the high court. Still, legal experts say Barrett’s writings and rulings show her to be a textualist in the mold of the justice she once clerked for, the late Antonin Scalia -- someone who favors a strict reading of the text of federal statutes. A Supreme Court that’s more skeptical of agency authority could look kindly on Trump administration rewrites of federal rules limiting the federal government’s reach when it comes to clean water oversight and required environmental analysis. With Barrett’s confirmation, the court is more likely to “embrace those more self-limited interpretations,” said Joe Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.

  • Biden would face hurdles undoing Trump environmental rollbacks

    October 7, 2020

    Biden’s climate plan lays out actions he would take on Day One like implementing “aggressive” methane pollution limits from the oil and gas sector and developing “rigorous” fuel economy standards. Environmental advocates say the former vice president should target rules that have the biggest effects on climate change and those that are most harmful to marginalized communities. Yet because of complexities in the rulemaking process — along with structural changes implemented by the Trump administration — undoing even just some of Trump’s environmental rollbacks could take years...If a Biden administration must rely on the rulemaking process to undo Trump’s actions, it could set up a long battle and possible court challenges. Joseph Goffman, an Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency lawyer, said the rulemaking process usually takes 18 to 36 months. Goffman, now the executive director of Harvard Law’s Environmental and Energy Law Program, said it may be slightly quicker to undo rules that are still facing court challenges when Biden takes office since the new administration can choose not to defend them. However, he said, Biden administration rules could get tied up or halted in court, meaning implementation could take even longer. The Trump administration has taken or is in the process of carrying out changes that could further hamstring a Biden administration. It is changing how the benefits of emissions reductions are calculated, and it has proposed a rule aimed at changing what scientific studies are considered in rulemaking. “Some of these changes would require the successor administration to have to do more homework,” Goffman said.  “A lot of these changes would not ultimately stop a Democratic, pro-environment administration from taking the actions it wanted to take,” he said, though he acknowledged it would make it “more challenging.”

  • High court in Trump mold could undercut key law for climate

    October 5, 2020

    President Trump might not win the November election, but he could still strip his opponent, Joe Biden, of a dominant tool to limit greenhouse gases. The Supreme Court and its reshaping by Trump, who is verging on his third appointment of an anti-regulatory justice, would be a warning to Biden to rely less on the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases. Expansive readings of the landmark environmental law — like the one EPA used to regulate the power sector under President Obama — are unlikely to pass muster with the court's likely 6-3 conservative majority. That would be a problem for former Vice President Biden, who has offered the most ambitious climate change platform in the history of U.S. presidential elections...Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard University Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program and a former EPA official under Obama, said Biden's environment agency would be forced to write legally conservative rules that nonetheless aim for aggressive emissions reductions. "If eventually it is challenged in court, the challenge won't be about whether the agency had too expansive an interpretation of the law," he said. "But would focus on technology issues where I think even a conservative judiciary would be likely to defer to the agency." Goffman, who helped oversee the development of the Clean Power Plan, said it was too early to guess what ambitious inside-the-fence-line regulations would look like. "But it's a little easier to speculate that the agency would look there first rather than to something that would be perceived by the court as an overly creative reading of the statutory language," he said.

  • Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation could erode US EPA’s authority on climate rules

    September 30, 2020

    The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court would produce a 6-3 conservative majority that could have far-reaching implications for federal energy and climate policy, according to several legal experts. Barrett, 48, did not establish a significant environmental track record from her current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit before being nominated Sept. 26 to fill the open Supreme Court seat created by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As a former law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, however, Barrett adopted the conservative icon's strict reading of the U.S. Constitution known as originalism and advanced by the Federalist Society, a group dedicated to confirming originalist judges. Several legal experts said that view of the law, which aims to follow closely the original understandings and expectations of the Constitution’s drafters and ratifiers, could make the conservative-tilting high court even less inclined to grant federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deference in regulating planet-warming greenhouse gases...And with the retirement in 2018 of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the addition of his replacement, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court no longer has the same majority that produced the 5-4 decision in Massachusetts. "You could leave Massachusetts v. EPA untouched, but you could drain it of its efficacy by interpreting away the other authorities within the Clean Air Act to address CO2 in any kind of meaningful way," said Joe Goffman, former general counsel in the Obama EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. Goffman said the addition of another conservative justice to the Supreme Court could have major consequences if it eventually decides Clean Air Act legal challenges dealing with the EPA's authority to regulate methane from oil and gas facilities and California's long-held waiver authority to set its own tailpipe pollution standards. "In both cases, they overturned years and decades of the agency's own precedents," Goffman said in an interview. "That means that to the extent it is potentially a jump ball as to what the courts are going to do, you really need to have as many judges that, let's say signed up for the Federalist Society worldview, on the bench in order to increase your chances of winning what could otherwise be a tough challenge."

  • Trump’s EPA Chief Boasts About Progress as Predecessors Scoff

    September 22, 2020

    EPA chief Andrew Wheeler boasted Monday the Trump administration has done more than any other to clean up the environment, calling the agency’s record of progress “incontrovertible.” But his predecessors and former officials at the agency say any environmental gains have come in spite of Trump’s policy making -- not because of it. The sparring comes as both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden seek to woo voters concerned about the environment. “We have done more in the first four years of the Trump administration to improve the environment than probably any administration except perhaps during the very first years of EPA,” Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a speech Monday. “It is incontrovertible that today the environment is in better shape under President Trump than we found it.” Wheeler highlighted a 15% decline in U.S. energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide since 2005, saying the foregone greenhouse gas emissions out pace those of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada combined -- and come even as China’s emissions have surged 50%. Wheeler also cited agency moves to clean up toxic Superfund sites and clear a backlog of unapproved state plans for combating air pollution as well as congressional spending on U.S. drinking water infrastructure...Former EPA leaders have spent weeks warning the opposite is true, with six former chiefs -- including those serving under Republican presidents -- outlining a blueprint for a post-election “reset” of the agency last month. “EPA Administrator Wheeler has been unrelenting in his efforts to defy science and deny the agency’s obligation to protect public health and the environment from the myriad harms of air and water pollution,” said Joe Goffman, a former EPA associate assistant administrator who is now an executive director of Harvard University’s Environmental and Energy Law Program. Recent reductions in pollution “are occurring as a result of regulations and investments put in place by the Obama administration, and in spite of the Trump EPA’s continual pursuit of deregulation,” Goffman added.

  • Trump administration rolls back curbs on oil industry methane emissions

    August 14, 2020

    The Trump administration on Thursday rolled back regulations aimed at reducing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations, its latest move to unwind environmental rules ahead of November’s presidential election. During a visit to election swing state Pennsylvania, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler formally rescinded 2016 Obama administration limits on oil and gas industry emissions of methane, a move criticized by environmentalists when initially proposed last August. Wheeler said in Pittsburgh that new rules would save $100 million a year between 2021 and 2030. The rules will “fulfill President (Donald) Trump’s promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry,” he said. Methane is the main component of natural gas. It is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but does not remain in the atmosphere as long...In addition to the rollbacks, the EPA also set up hurdles for a future administration to regulate methane by requiring the agency to make a finding that methane contributes significantly to air pollution before proposing new requirements. Joe Goffman, former EPA senior counsel and director at Harvard’s Environmental and Energy Law Program, said reducing methane from oil and gas is necessary to combat climate change. “The purpose of this rule is simply to strew baseless legal obstacles across that path, ensuring that after Trump and Wheeler are finally gone, their successors will have to struggle to achieve urgently needed methane reductions,” he said.

  • Trump, Biden Square Off Over Environmental Regulations

    July 17, 2020

    Environmental regulation is shaping up as a defining issue in the presidential race, with President Trump doubling down on his bid to ratchet back government oversight and former Vice President Joe Biden promising to reverse Mr. Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. The rivals this week outlined diametrically opposed views. Mr. Trump ordered a streamlining of environmental reviews and said he would keep shrinking the reach of government to help business. Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, released a $2 trillion clean-energy plan he said would spur job growth through investments in new technology...Shortly after taking office, Mr. Trump also issued a hiring freeze designed to starve agencies through attrition. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates and regulates workplaces for health and safety issues, has the lowest number of inspectors in more than four decades and has seen inspection tallies plummet. The Environmental Protection Agency has seen similar decreases in inspections when compared with the Obama era, according to government reports. “The administration came into office with an unnervingly good understanding of how the machinery of regulation works and they did a pretty effective job of sabotaging it,” said Joe Goffman, executive director of the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School. The approach will make it tougher for a new administration to carry out its objectives.

  • Trump Slashed a Major Environmental Rule. That’s Just the Beginning.

    July 16, 2020

    On Wednesday, President Trump achieved a longstanding goal in weakening environmental protection: The administration significantly narrowed the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that requires the government to study the impact of federal projects on the communities and wild areas around them. By skipping steps and shortening deadlines, these changes help to fast-track fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines and highways, a move that leaves out the voices of poor neighborhoods and people of color on the pollution in their communities...Twice a year, the administration publishes a Unified Regulatory Agenda that details its plans for new regulations and rollbacks. The experts who keep track of environmental rollbacks for Harvard’s Regulatory Tracker noticed an exceptionally long list in the recently updated agenda from early July. It shows 317 items  in proposed or final stages lined up for both the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency. Of those 317, the rules in final stages are most important to watch, because they close enough to the finish line that Trump could conceivably rush them out the door before January if he loses the election. There are 64 EPA rules and 74 Interior rules in the final stage, according to the same list, slightly higher than the EPA and Interior had planned for the fall. “If they meet their schedule, virtually every big ticket item will be across the finish line,” says Harvard University’s Joseph Goffman, who was a senior clean air attorney under the Obama EPA... “If that happens, if there ever is a Democratic administration coming in that has any kind of ambitious regulatory agenda,” Goffman says, “they’re going to have to overcome whatever of those restrictive legal interpretations that were upheld by the courts.”

  • 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.”

  • LGBT rights ruling: ‘Potent new precedent’ on climate?

    June 18, 2020

    A landmark Supreme Court decision this week that affirmed protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in the workplace could provide powerful ammunition for climate litigators. In a 6-3 opinion Monday, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects "all persons" from discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Employees, the court found, can therefore not be fired from their jobs simply for being gay or transgender. The case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., could serve as key precedent for lawyers pushing for more stringent regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act...Gorsuch's decision in Bostock follows a similar logic path to the opinion in the watershed climate case Massachusetts v. EPA, said Joe Goffman, executive director of Harvard University's environmental law program. In the 2004 case, the Supreme Court acknowledged that Congress crafted the Clean Air Act with "unknown unknowns" in mind and said that the plain text of the statute left room for EPA to make decisions, such as whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as air pollutants, based on new scientific understanding. Something similar happened in Gorsuch's reading of the Civil Rights Act, said Goffman, a former EPA official. "The language of the statute was crafted in a way so that it could accommodate situations that were not necessarily anticipated by Congress at the time the language was crafted, but which the statue could still cover as, in this case, society's understanding of the issue evolved," Goffman said.

  • Trump uses virus to permanently suspend rules on industry

    May 20, 2020

    President Trump instructed federal agencies yesterday to search for regulations they could suspend or kill in hopes of jolting the U.S. economy out of its pandemic stupor. "The virus has attacked our nation's economy as well as its health," the president proclaimed in an executive order that directs agency heads to look for rules "that may inhibit economic recovery." The order permits rules to be suspended temporarily or permanently to aid economic activity and job creation. Trump signed the order at a Cabinet meeting at the White House yesterday afternoon. "We're fighting for the livelihoods of American workers, and we must continue to cut through every piece of red tape that stands in our way," he said at the meeting. Under Trump, EPA has rolled back numerous regulations for air, water and chemicals in the name of streamlining them, and it has proposed to do more. Myron Ebell, who led Trump's EPA transition team in 2016, told E+E News yesterday that the agency had already consulted with the White House on possible rules to freeze under this order...EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler attended yesterday's Cabinet meeting. A spokesman said the agency will "review the final [executive order] and work to assess which EPA regulations might be available to streamline in order to achieve the goals outlined in the EO." The agency did not immediately say what regulations might be candidates for suspension. Joe Goffman, former chief counsel for EPA's air office under Obama, said in an email to E+E News last night that the agency's obligations and authorities are defined by statutes like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, "not by President Trump's executive orders, which cannot override environmental statutes or substitute rhetorical goals like 'streamlining' for statutory mandates." "Streamlining or suspending rules is governed by these requirements and must be done via the rule-making process, which requires EPA to give persuasive reasons — on the merits — for its actions," he said. Goffman added that public health standards and pollution controls are prerequisites for economic recovery, not obstacles to it.

  • Biden wants a climate secretary. Why that’s complicated

    April 29, 2020

    Former Vice President Joe Biden's proposal for a Cabinet-level climate change secretary is getting mixed reviews from veterans of past administrations. Their question is this: Will it help or hurt efforts to deliver aggressive action on warming? The presumptive Democratic nominee said earlier this month at a virtual campaign fundraiser that if elected, he would consider creating three Cabinet positions, including one on climate that "goes beyond EPA." It would be the first time the official responsible for climate change policy held Cabinet-level status. The move could reshuffle — and potentially complicate — the chain of command related to environmental policy. Most domestic climate policy is now under the purview of the EPA administrator, who is not a Cabinet member though is generally treated as one...Joseph Goffman, who served as EPA's top lawyer on air and climate under Obama, said that besides being barred from issuing regulations, a new Cabinet official also couldn't redirect money or make infrastructure investments approved by Congress for other agencies... "It's really easy to create high-profile positions occupied by high-profile powerhouse people," said Goffman. "But if they're disconnected from the actual resources of the government that you need to bring to bear to produce results, then you're not going to have a particularly effective climate strategy and you're not really going to be able to produce effective climate policies." Goffman said Biden should focus on using his existing authorities to tackle climate change, as Obama did in his second term.

  • EPA Gives Utilities A Headache With Mercury Rule Revision

    April 27, 2020

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opened a Pandora's box for utilities with an about-face on the justification underpinning an Obama-era rule limiting coal-fired power plants' mercury emissions, including the potential that ratepayers will try to claw back what they paid for utilities to comply with the rule. Experts say that at best, the EPA's finalized cost-benefit analysis of its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule is an empty gesture to utilities. The EPA said it's not "appropriate or necessary" to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil-fired plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, but the rule remains in place and utilities have already spent billions to comply with it. At worst, the EPA's move could spark renewed legal challenges to overturn the MATS rule in its entirety...Experts say the EPA could have really cut the legs out from under the MATS rule by also removing power plants from the list of pollution source categories subject to regulation under Section 112, but ultimately decided not to. "Although there is still some chance that the coal industry will challenge the standards on the grounds that the appropriate and necessary finding is gone, their prospects for success are dimmer now," said Joseph Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official who is now the executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program. Still, if a court were to enjoin the MATS rule, utilities might not only have spent billions of dollars on pollution controls in vain, but could also face attempts from consumer groups to convince state utility regulators that utilities can't recover the costs of installing those pollution controls from ratepayers.

  • EPA’s Recent Rollbacks Raise Public Health Worries for Vulnerable Americans

    April 27, 2020

    It would have been a controversial move under any circumstances, but an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week looked especially problematic given the context: During an outbreak of a disease that attacks people’s ability to breathe and has killed more than 45,000 Americans, the agency finalized a rule that says it’s no longer “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants...Last week’s action doesn’t lower limits on mercury emissions, but instead alters the regulation’s mathematical foundation—a bureaucratic-seeming change that experts say could have profound consequences. The Obama administration had justified the regulation’s hefty cost by noting that it would improve public health not only by reducing exposure to toxic mercury, but also by capturing other pollution from smokestacks, preventing an estimated 11,000 premature deaths each year. But the Trump administration’s new rule says the government can’t consider those indirect benefits...That interpretation could leave not only the mercury standards, but also other regulations that promote public health, vulnerable to legal challenges from the fossil fuel industry, says Joseph Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard University and a former EPA official. “I think this has a little bit less to do with this particular set of emissions standards and more to do with a much bigger project the agency and the administration have, which is to essentially sabotage or manipulate cost-benefit analysis so that it always comes out to show that the costs of regulation outweigh the benefits,” he says.

  • Why the Rollback of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards ‘Foreshadows What’s to Come’

    April 27, 2020

    The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), finalized in 2015, were designed to lower the amount of mercury and toxic air pollution Americans are exposed to from coal- and oil-fired power plants. But last week, the Trump administration relaxed those standards, rewriting a major aspect of the rules. With the vast majority of power plants already in compliance, why roll it back now? On this episode of our podcast, Trump on Earth, we hear first from someone who helped write the original rule. Joseph Goffman is a former senior counsel at EPA under the Obama administration. He now runs the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard. And next, we hear from John Walke, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defence Council. He explains why the rollback of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards foreshadows what’s to come.

  • EPA Gives Utilities A Headache With Mercury Rule Revision

    April 20, 2020

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opened a Pandora's box for utilities with an about-face on the justification underpinning an Obama-era rule limiting coal-fired power plants' mercury emissions, including the potential that ratepayers will try to claw back what they paid for utilities to comply with the rule. Experts say that at best, the EPA's finalized cost-benefit analysis of its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule is an empty gesture to utilities. The EPA said it's not "appropriate or necessary" to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil-fired plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, but the rule remains in place and utilities have already spent billions to comply with it...EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Thursday that the agency is prepared to defend in court its decision to keep the MATS rule — which was enacted in 2012 and required utilities to comply by 2015 — in place...Experts say the EPA could have really cut the legs out from under the MATS rule by also removing power plants from the list of pollution source categories subject to regulation under Section 112, but ultimately decided not to. "Although there is still some chance that the coal industry will challenge the standards on the grounds that the appropriate and necessary finding is gone, their prospects for success are dimmer now," said Joseph Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official who is now the executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program.

  • How the Laws That Earth Day Inspired Have Benefited Us All

    April 16, 2020

    On the perpetual campaign trail, Donald Trump likes to brag that his regulatory rollbacks will save Americans from having to depend on the latest energy-saving light bulbs. (“To me, most importantly, the light’s no good. I always look orange.”) He promises to get rid of water-efficiency standards because toilets require too much flushing. (“Ten times, right?… Not me. But you. Him.”) The aim is to find a homey way to put across the message that regulations — especially environmental regulations — inconvenience the average American. They hurt the economy. They cost jobs...The move to discredit benefits began as a result of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 targeting acid rain emissions from coal-burning power plants, mostly located in the Midwest...At the time, the paradigm was that “like politics, all pollution is local,” says Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard’s Environmental and Energy Law Program, who helped write the original legislation as an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund. The soot and other pollution that made a difference for human health was thought to come from nearby sources...The Trump administration has tried multiple tactics to skew cost-benefit calculations back in favor of deregulation. Caitlin McCoy, also an attorney in the Environmental and Energy Law Program, lists a few such tactics.

  • Greens plot court strategy for stronger soot limits

    April 16, 2020

    Environmental groups said they are prepared to sue EPA over its proposal to leave national soot standards unchanged, a move that conflicts with scientific evidence and career staff calls for stronger restrictions on fine particulate matter. The agency's draft rule preserving limits set on those particles, known as PM2.5, in 2012 tees up unusual legal questions of whether EPA can override recommendations from its staff and some of its scientific experts to strengthen those standards...Once the proposed rule appears in the Federal Register, interested parties will have 60 days to comment on EPA's plan. The agency is expected to finalize the rule later this year, which would trigger litigation. Joe Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official who is now at Harvard Law School, said he expects the comments to include lots of scientific research demonstrating the need for tighter restrictions on PM2.5. "The record is the one thing that the administrator can't rig a priori," he said. "Ultimately, challengers are going to be able to bring to the D.C. Circuit a very strong record, notwithstanding what's in the proposal."

  • EPA retains Obama-era air quality standards despite staff questions of adequacy

    April 15, 2020

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to make no changes to certain air quality standards even though members of its staff raised questions about whether one of the standards is adequate. The agency on Tuesday proposed keeping the maximum acceptable levels of both fine and coarse forms of a pollutant known as particulate matter at Obama-era levels. Assessments have linked long-term exposure to fine particulate matter to as many as 52,100 premature deaths and suggested that stricter standards could save thousands of lives...The announcement comes on the heels of a Harvard study that determined that people who lived in areas with more exposure to fine particulate matter are more likely to die from the coronavirus pandemic...Critics also raised procedural objections, namely the EPA’s 2018 decision to fire scientists that helped the agency review its air quality standards. “It’s not just a bad result, it’s a fouled process that led to the result,” said Joseph Goffman, an Obama administration EPA official who is now the executive director of Harvard Law’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.

  • Exhibit A: Science advisers’ critiques of EPA rules

    March 9, 2020

    An EPA advisory panel's sharp rebukes of the Trump administration's Clean Water Act protections and vehicle emissions standards have provided a partial blueprint for how critics could challenge the rules in court. EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB), which includes many members selected by the Trump administration, last week finalized striking criticisms of the agency's proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule and its recently narrowed definition of the "waters of the United States," or WOTUS. ... In contrast, a court could reprimand EPA for disregarding such guidance without a rational explanation for that decision, said Joseph Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official who is now at Harvard Law School. "The way the D.C. Circuit expressed itself really invited the inference that if the agency hadn't aligned itself in a thoughtful way with the science advisers, the court would have made a different decision," he said.

  • What does Trump actually believe on climate change?

    January 24, 2020

    US President Donald Trump's position on climate change has been in the spotlight again, after he criticised "prophets of doom" at the World Economic Forum in Davos. At the event, which had sustainability as its main theme, and activist Greta Thunberg as its star guest, Mr Trump dismissed "alarmists" who wanted to "control every aspect of our lives" - while also expressing the US's support for an initiative to plant one trillion trees....Meanwhile, Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard's Environmental Law Programme, argues that Mr Trump "believes nothing on climate change - he's a climate nihilist". Mr Trump's position is based on his need to appeal to "the part of the Republican establishment that rejects climate policy," Mr Goffman, who previously worked as Democratic staff director on the Senate environmental committee, adds.

  • Advisers Call Proposed EPA Science Rule ‘License to Politicize’

    January 3, 2020

    The EPA’s science advisers say the agency’s proposal to change the way science feeds into rulemaking could politicize the rulemaking process and wasn’t fully thought through, according to a draft report published Dec. 31. The Environmental Protection Agency’s April 2018 Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science (RIN:2080-AA14) proposal, also known as the “secret science” rule, would bar the agency from using scientific research that isn’t or can’t be made public. Blocking the use of that type of research would represent a sharp break from the EPA’s decades-old approach. Critics have said the proposal is a bid to sideline the science that the EPA uses in regulations because the agency wouldn’t be able to rely on epidemiological studies, which often draw on private medical information. “Given the lack of clarity, the proposed rule could be viewed as a license to politicize the scientific evaluation required under the statute,” wrote the Science Advisory Board, a group of outside experts who review the quality of the science the EPA uses in regulations...Joseph Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School, said, “What’s really interesting is that the report echoes what an absolute legion of commenters from the science community have said about the proposal. There’s something at least in the ballpark of consensus that the proposal is really flawed.”

  • Trump carbon rule defense: A double-edged sword?

    November 5, 2019

    The Trump administration's courtroom defense of its Clean Power Plan repeal could blunt its own efforts to craft standards for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, legal experts say. EPA has taken an unexpected approach to defending its rollback of the Obama-era rule against challenges by states, environmental groups, public health organizations, and even industry and conservative groups in federal court, Joseph Goffman and Caitlin McCoy of Harvard University's Environmental and Energy Law Program wrote in a recent analysis...When an agency presents an argument that it is making a reasonable interpretation of the law, courts will often defer to the agency's expertise under the doctrine known as Chevron deference. But EPA might have trouble defending a rule that says the best approach for states to reduce emissions from existing power plants is to take action at the facility level, or "inside the fence line," Goffman and other legal experts said. EPA could have argued both that the Clean Air Act compelled the agency's interpretation that power plant regulations could only use an "inside the fence line" approach, and that — even in the event that it didn't — EPA had selected a reasonable option among a number of possibilities in developing the ACE rule, Goffman said. "The riddle is, why didn't they do that?" he said. "Why did they just argue that the statutory language is compelled and not argue that it is reasonable?"

  • Trump Formally Begins U.S. Withdrawal From Paris Climate Agreement in Latest Effort to Roll Back Regulations

    November 5, 2019

    President Donald Trump formally began the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord on Monday, a move announced in 2017 that will take another year to complete. The State Department formally submitted a request to withdraw from the pact signed by roughly 200 countries on Monday, the earliest date Trump can make the official notification. “With or without the paperwork the administration is doing to withdraw from Paris, they have effectively withdrawn from any kind of commitment already,” said Joe Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School.

  • Air Pollution Is Increasing for the First Time in a Decade Under Trump

    October 23, 2019

    After a decade of improvements in air pollution, the U.S. is backsliding. And that means more people are dying prematurely, according to new research. The paper authors don’t point to a specific reason why the increase happened, but the numbers are clear that it occurred under the presidency of Donald Trump. A team of economists at Carnegie Mellon University published their working paper Monday with the National Bureau of Economic Research... “Since 2017, the agency, through a variety of actions, has signaled it is going to take a more relaxed approach,” Joe Goffman, former associate administrator for Climate and Senior Counsel at the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation who now helps run Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program, told Earther. “This administration has sent enough signals to sources that they are operating under a more lenient regime that could corroborate the data that is the focus of this report.”

  • California power shutdowns raise air pollution worries

    October 15, 2019

    Power shutdowns intended to prevent more devastating California wildfires are raising new concerns about another longstanding environmental threat: air pollution. As utilities halted service to more than 2 million people this week, lines formed at hardware stores selling portable generators, while many hospitals and businesses fired up their own. The prospect of emissions belching from untold numbers of the machines, some powered by diesel and gasoline as well as propane and natural gas, was troubling in a state already burdened with some of the nation's worst air quality...It could be hard to quantify the effects of power shutdowns on air quality because of the many factors to consider, including how to weigh the pollution they cause against the pollution avoided by preventing wildfires, said Joe Goffman, a former assistant administrator with EPA's Office of Air and Radiation during the Obama administration. "The kinds of fires California has seen in recent years have been major, catastrophic polluters in and of themselves," said Goffman, now director of the Harvard Law School Environment and Energy Law Program. "These shutdowns are being done precisely to prevent that from happening."

  • Trump Orders Could Gum Up The Works At Enviro Agencies

    October 11, 2019

    President Donald Trump's executive orders aimed at curtailing federal agencies' use of informal guidance in policymaking could prevent agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy from reacting quickly to industry problems. The regulated community expects overall relief from the orders, but also knows the change means that when businesses need environmental regulatory clarity, they could get bogged down in lengthy rulemakings and subsequent litigation. ... "The short answer is: the more rulemaking, the more litigation," said Joseph Goffman, a former Obama-era EPA official who is now the executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program. "The increased burden will fall on DOJ if so, as the agency tends to engage in consultation with stakeholders even on guidance and sometimes puts out draft guidance for comment."

  • Trump administration proposes weaker monitoring of major greenhouse gas

    August 30, 2019

    A newly proposed Trump administration rule would allow for weaker monitoring of methane, a major greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. The proposed rule rolled out Thursday morning by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would eliminate current requirements on oil and gas companies to install technology to monitor methane emissions from pipelines, wells and facilities...“I would say it’s a lose-lose-lose. It’s a bad environmental outcome, it’s a bad outcome for what the industry itself is now saying it needs, and it’s pretty much outright sabotage of the EPA’s own legal authority and what the Clean Air Act was enacted to accomplish,” said Joseph Goffman, who helped develop the Obama-era regulations on methane at EPA and now serves as executive director of the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School.

  • Trump touts environmental record despite slashing climate regulations

    July 9, 2019

    Donald Trump is arguing he has made America an environmental leader, despite moving to gut dozens of rules meant to safeguard clean air and water and rescinding every major US effort to stem the climate crisis...Joe Goffman, a senior lawyer at the Environmental Protection Agency under Barack Obama, said Trump has been stalling environmental efforts since he signed an early executive order, in March 2017, to unwind Obama policies. “From his very first weeks in office the president has made it a priority to go backwards in terms of air quality and climate protections,” Goffman said.

  • EPA Aims to Tie Democrats’ Hands for Good on Power Plant Carbon

    July 9, 2019

    The Trump administration’s legal strategy for overturning Obama-era power plant carbon dioxide controls goes beyond simply arguing it has the right to regulate differently, to contend that its way is the only way. If successful, the Environmental Protection Agency could close the door on any future Democratic administration using that section of the Clean Air Act to expansively regulate climate-warming emissions from power plants. The power sector was the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. in 2017, according to EPA data. But the legal tactic is also risky, critics and supporters both say. If the argument fails, it could fail big—sending the EPA’s repeal and replacement of the Obama-era rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, back to the agency for a redo...“They’re playing a purist’s game,” Joseph Goffman, former senior counsel in the EPA’s air office during the Obama administration, said in an interview. “The authors of this strategy are very, very skeptical of any kind of climate policy and dead set against the EPA using the Clean Air Act as an authority for such a policy.” Goffman is now executive director of Harvard University’s Environmental and Energy Law Program. “The current EPA leadership is trying to shrink the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority over greenhouse gases so it’s small enough that they can ‘drown it in a bathtub,’ ” he added, likening the agency’s tactics to Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist‘s famous quote about cutting the size of the federal government.

  • 8 rules on the new air chief’s agenda

    July 2, 2019

    Anne Idsal begins this week as EPA's new acting air chief with a full plate of unfinished regulatory actions before her. People tracking EPA's deregulatory proposals don't anticipate Bill Wehrum's abrupt exit last week will have much effect on the pace of work, even as Idsal gets up to speed on the full scope of the agency's ambitious agenda. "It's unlikely that the Air Office's deregulatory tempo will change regardless of Wehrum's departure," said former EPA senior official Joseph Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School, which tracks environmental deregulation under the Trump administration. "The transition from Wehrum to Anne Idsal, a political appointee who had already been serving in the EPA, reminds me of the sports cliche, 'it's next man/woman up' so the game can go on," he wrote in an email.

  • Wehrum backers say ACE cemented his legacy. Critics disagree

    July 2, 2019

    Industry lawyers praised outgoing EPA air chief Bill Wehrum yesterday for setting limits on Clean Air Act climate rules they hope will outlast the Trump administration. Wehrum, who will leave EPA on Sunday, raised questions with his abrupt exit. But former EPA air chief Jeff Holmstead, who worked with Wehrum in the George W. Bush administration, said his former colleague had planned to depart after work was complete on a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan carbon rule...Joe Goffman, who served as the air office's top lawyer under Obama and is now at Harvard Law School, said the ACE rule's preamble "read like a brief on behalf of the proposition that the Clean Air Act ... gives EPA next to no authority to do anything." He attributed it to Wehrum. Goffman and others said the air office and its chief, in their zeal to limit what a future administration might do, might have made their own rule more vulnerable.

  • We Helped Write the Clean Power Plan, and Trump’s Do-Nothing Replacement Is an Outrage

    July 2, 2019

    An op-ed by Gina McCarthy, Janet McCabe and Joseph Goffman:  We were part of the senior team at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Obama administration, when the agency's mission truly was to protect the health of American families from dangerous pollution and act on perhaps the greatest challenge of our time: climate change...Had the CPP gone into effect, the EPA's 2015 analysis showed that by 2030 power plant CO2 emissions would have fallen by 32 percent below 2005 levels and the pollutants that cause life-threatening smog and soot would have been reduced significantly. The CPP pollution cuts would have saved thousands of lives and prevented tens of thousands of pollution-related illnesses...In sharp contrast, the Trump administration's ACE will achieve virtually no reductions in CO2 emissions and next to no cuts in soot and smog pollution. It will prevent next to none of the premature deaths, cardiac problems, lung damage or asthma attacks suffered by the most vulnerable among us—our kids, seniors and poor families—that the CPP would have prevented.

  • Another top EPA official is out amid ethics scandal

    July 2, 2019

    The mastermind behind the Trump administration’s pro-coal alternative to Obama’s Clean Power Plan is out, reportedly another victim of an ethics scandal. The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that William Wehrum, the mercury-loving weirdo who ran the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, is stepping down by the end of this month. Honestly, good riddance...“Wehrum was an enthusiastic executioner of the Trump EPA’s anti-public health anti-environmental agenda,” said Joe Goffman, who worked on the Clean Power Plan when he worked at the EPA, in a statement emailed to Earther. “To the great harm of the public and the environment, that agenda will roll on regardless of who replaces him.”

  • We’re fracking the hell out of the U.S.A. Can a president slam on the brakes?

    July 2, 2019

    U.S. Route 285, cutting through the Texas-New Mexico border, is perilous...The remote highway is bustling, often dangerously so, because the U.S. fracking revolution is in high gear, and nearly-endless bounties of liquid gold lie beneath the West Texas ground. Overall, U.S. crude oil production and exports have both hit record highs. America is also now the world leader in natural gas production..."Natural gas really is a double-edged sword," said Joe Goffman, a former EPA senior counsel in the Office of Air and Radiation. The gas has unquestionably helped wean the U.S. off coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel — but left the country still emitting loads of heat-trapping carbon. "It presents a significant threat to climate and the environment," Goffman, now the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program," added. "It really poses a riddle for policymakers right now."

  • Trump ditches sole climate rule that aimed to reduce coal plant pollution

    June 25, 2019

    Donald Trump’s administration is finalizing plans to roll back the US government’s only direct efforts to curb coal-fired power plant pollution that is heating the planet. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency will replace an Obama-era climate change rule with a regulation that experts warn could help some of America’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants to keep running...Joe Goffman, a Harvard professor and former EPA general counsel, called EPA’s legal arguments “tortured” and “deceptive”. Goffman said the rule “demonstrates the Trump administration’s determination not only to avoid taking action to address climate change but also to obstruct current and future efforts by states and successors to cut greenhouse gas pollution”.

  • EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler moves to roll back coal-fired power plant rules

    June 25, 2019

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule Wednesday that will undo Obama-era climate requirements for coal plants in a way the Trump administration insists will still reduce emissions. The new rule gives individual states wide discretion in deciding whether to require limited efficiency upgrades at individual coal-fired plants. The rule amounts to one of the Trump administration's biggest rollbacks of environmental rules, replacing a landmark Obama-era effort that sought to wean the nation's electrical grid off coal-fired power plants and their climate-damaging pollution...Joseph Goffman, an EPA official under President Barack Obama, said he feared that the Trump administration was trying to set a legal precedent that the Clean Air Act gives the federal government "next to no authority to do anything" about climate-changing emissions from the country's power grid. The Obama rule, adopted in 2015, sought to reshape the country's power system by encouraging utilities to rely less on dirtier-burning coal-fired power plants and more on electricity from natural gas, solar, wind and other lower or no-carbon sources.

  • Trump rolls back Obama’s biggest climate rule

    June 25, 2019

    The Trump administration on Wednesday issued its long-awaited replacement for former President Barack Obama's most ambitious climate change regulation, rolling back rules in an effort to salvage the declining role of coal in the nation's power supply. Critics charge that the new rule would cripple the fight against climate change — which has emerged as a major issue for Democrats in the 2020 presidential race — and undermine any future White House efforts to use the Environmental Protection Agency to address the problem...Environmentalists and climate scientists say the EPA plan falls far short of the dramatic cuts that are needed in the next several years to avoid the worst effects of a warming planet, rising seas and more destructive weather events. “The final ACE rule will yield virtually no reductions” of carbon dioxide, said Joseph Goffman, the architect of the Obama EPA's Clean Power Plan.

  • Trump’s EPA Knows Its New Coal Rule Could Kill 1,400 People Per Year

    June 25, 2019

    President Donald Trump has made a habit of undoing his predecessor's accomplishments, especially environmental regulations. Now, his EPA has replaced the only rule meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions — and potentially caused the death of thousands of people in the process...“It’s a classic ideological exercise in the sense that this EPA and this administration thinks that government action, and any government action, is the biggest problem,” said Joe Goffman, the executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School and the former EPA Associate Assistant Administrator for Climate. “That’s the problem that has to be solved, not the problem of climate change.”

  • Trump Administration Finalizes Revamp of Obama-Era Coal Rule

    June 25, 2019

    The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized its replacement for a cornerstone Obama climate rule, the Clean Power Plan, which placed heavier regulations on coal plants. The replacement, known as the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, does not require states to reduce overall emissions. Instead, it gives states flexibility to set performance standards and implement efficiency improvements at individual facilities. States will have three years to prepare their plans, which the administration will approve...Joseph Goffman, who also worked at the EPA during the drafting of the Obama-era rule, said that utilities cannot be expected to make decisions with the public interest as their top priority, as the government should.

  • Question back in court: What’s the best way to cut emissions?

    June 25, 2019

    A who's who of high-powered lawyers appeared in court in 2016 to debate the meaning of "best system of emission reduction," a technical Clean Air Act term that steers EPA's response to climate change. Nearly three years later, the correct interpretation is still an open question, and the stakes have never been higher...Much of the BSER legal debate will arise again in litigation over the Affordable Clean Energy rule."I glanced through the transcripts of the oral arguments in the last couple days and have been trying to think about the atmospherics of the oral argument," said Joe Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official now at Harvard Law School. He noted that even though the Trump administration has replaced the Clean Power Plan and the broad BSER interpretation that went with it, the D.C. Circuit judges were immersed in those arguments in 2016 and will likely keep them in mind as they consider whether the Trump EPA's narrow BSER approach is appropriate. "That's going to, if not legally than psychologically, create a real overhang for the EPA, particularly if they go in front of the court and say that the only possible interpretation of Section 111 and BSER is that it must be applied exclusively within the fence line," he said.

  • Trump admin’s carbon rule faces legal war

    June 25, 2019

    The Trump administration has lauded its Clean Power Plan replacement rule as a more legally defensible option for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. An…