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Joseph Goffman

  • 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…

  • Trump Administration Finalizes Replacement To Obama’s Clean Power

    June 25, 2019

    NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Joseph Goffman, of the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard, about the end of the Clean Power Plan, which he worked on in the Obama administration...MARTIN: Is the director of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, right? Do fossil fuels still occupy a necessary place in America's energy landscape? GOFFMAN: They occupy a place within a large, diverse and flexible electric grid. They can be - or should be - and to some - to a large extent, are being paired with much cleaner energy sources. MARTIN: So what is your response to this decision? You had to have seen this coming. GOFFMAN: Yes. I think - we did see it coming. I think there are multiple responses. First, this is pretty devastating in terms of its impact on climate change policy because what the EPA did yesterday was really two things.

  • 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 anticipated flood of lawsuits from environmental groups and states will soon put those claims to the test..."I'm guessing that the challengers to this rule will frame their case in a way that really forces the EPA to grapple with the fact that, as recently as 2015, the agency came up with a very different interpretation of the best system of emission reduction and that it was backed up with a reality-based record," said Joe Goffman, former counsel for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation and the current head of Harvard Law School's environment and energy law program."I think the challengers will really make EPA and [the Department of Justice] work hard to persuade the court to ignore all that."

  • Regulating methane emissions now means suing the EPA

    April 5, 2019

    An op-ed by Joseph Goffman and Hana Veselka Vizcarra:  Kudos to BP America for company chairman and president Susan Dio’s bold call on these pages for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, emitted by both new and existing oil and gas operations. Double kudos to BP for walking the talk by setting methane emissions reduction targets and taking active steps to reach them in its own operations. BP’s actions, in fact, deliver a double bonus: they cut methane emissions, and they demonstrate what kinds of pollution-cutting technologies and strategies are effective and affordable. This provides lessons for other companies, and if and when the EPA heeds BP’s call and regulates methane, the agency will look carefully at BP’s experiences and successes in reducing emissions.

  • How Trump’s new rule-slashing judge could sway green issues

    March 19, 2019

    President Trump's deregulatory boss is now seated on one of the most powerful courts in the nation, where she'll have lifetime tenure to influence environmental policy and other issues. Neomi Rao will be sworn in this afternoon to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a forum with broad authority to review regulations and federal agency decisions, among other things. ...  Joseph Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official and executive director of Harvard Law School's Environment and Energy Law Program, pointed out that like her predecessor, Rao built her career among "extremely conservative members of the legal community centered around the Federalist Society." Another Kavanaugh-style judge on the powerful court is not good news for environmental litigants, Driscoll said. "In terms of political ideology, she's right there with him," he said. "I don't think we'll expect any better outcomes with her on the bench."

  • Declaring a National Emergency Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis

    February 19, 2019

    On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in order to secure funding for the border wall. The declaration has been widely criticized as a legally questionable end run around Congress, which refused to fund the border wall in full in the latest shutdown deal that Trump himself signed. Indeed, even prominent Republicans warned the president that the move could set a dangerous precedent. ... Any president who takes climate change seriously should be wary of following in Trump's footsteps and using emergency powers to address global warming, according to Joseph Goffman, the executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program—even if the courts ultimately uphold what Goffman says is a clear abuse of Trump's presidential powers. "First of all there's a possibility that congress will try to amend or change the statute in order to limit the president's power," Goffman says, "and so a deft successor to Trump would probably want to avoid provoking that." Second, he adds, any president who understands the scale of the societal transformations that climate change necessitates, and the broad political and public support that such efforts will require to succeed, would not want to anger an entire political party through unilateral action.

  • Fate Of Trump Energy Agenda Hazy Despite Shutdown’s End

    January 29, 2019

    The federal government may be open again, but policy watchers say Friday's temporary deal to end the shutdown won't resolve uncertainty over whether the Trump administration can craft rules rolling back Obama-era energy and climate change regulations and successfully defend them in court before the 2020 presidential election. ... Joseph Goffman, who worked with the Obama-era EPA and is another 2013 shutdown veteran, said it's a coin flip whether the latest shutdown was long enough to push back finalization of major rules such as the CPP repeal and its replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, so that the inevitable legal challenges stretch past the 2020 elections.

  • Trump rollbacks for fossil fuel industries carry steep cost

    January 28, 2019

    As the Trump administration rolls back environmental and safety rules for the energy sector, government projections show billions of dollars in savings reaped by companies will come at a steep cost: more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, a jump in climate-warming emissions and more severe derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels. ... Joe Goffman, a former EPA official who helped create the clean power plan and now at Harvard Law School, said the omission of international impacts “doesn’t track with reality” given that climate change is a worldwide problem.

  • Editorial: Trump’s Disturbing EPA Nominee

    January 22, 2019

    “Drain the swamp!” was one of those memorable Donald Trump campaign promises that remains unfulfilled, much like “Mexico will pay for the wall!” and “Repeal and replace Obamacare!” with “something terrific!” Unlike the latter two promises, there’s little debate about the need to establish strong ethical standards for government. That makes President Trump’s failure to keep his swamp-draining pledge — highlighted by the Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday for a former coal industry lobbyist nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency — all the more disturbing. ... After more than a decade working for the Senate’s premier denier of human-caused climate change, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Wheeler joined a consulting firm working against environmental restrictions on behalf of his top client, coal magnate Robert Murray. “He’s spent his career carrying out someone else’s agenda,” Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School’s environmental law program, says of Wheeler.

  • EPA nominee showcases how Trump keeps failing to drain the swamp

    January 16, 2019

    ... Nominee Andrew Wheeler became acting EPA administrator after his predecessor and former boss, Scott Pruitt, resigned in July amid a cloud of self-serving ethics scandals. Wheeler, 54, doesn't carry Pruitt's ethical baggage, but he has devoted himself to a disciplined rollback of environmental safeguards. Wheeler is one of 188 former lobbyists working in the administration, according to ProPublica, and a fox-guarding-the-hen-house example of someone regulating an industry that once paid him handsomely. ... "He's spent his career carrying out someone else's agenda," Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School's environmental law program, says of Wheeler.

  • EPA’s dig at mercury regs carries Kavanaugh’s fingerprints

    January 7, 2019

    EPA's polarizing new plan to scrap the legal underpinnings for Obama-era mercury standards traces a piece of its history to Brett Kavanaugh. ... Legal experts say Kavanaugh's 2014 dissent while on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit features prominently in the Supreme Court's final decision and may have persuaded the justices to take up the dispute in the first place. "Judge Kavanaugh's dissent ... struck me and many others as resembling a petition to the Supreme Court for certiorari," said Joe Goffman, executive director of the Harvard Environmental Law Program and a former Obama EPA official. "If anything, then, his dissent may have had an impact in the Court's decision to take up the question in the first place."

  • New E.P.A. Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the Air

    January 2, 2019

    The Trump administration proposed on Friday major changes to the way the federal government calculates the benefits, in human health and safety, of restricting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. ... The Obama administration itself had broadly accepted that it is difficult to put a specific dollar-figure on some health benefits, for instance, avoiding lost I.Q. points in infants or other fetal harm that has been linked to pregnant women eating mercury-contaminated fish. For that reason, the original rule argued against using a strict cost-benefit analysis to decide whether the regulation should be imposed, said Joseph Goffman, the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.

  • Study: ‘No Scientific Basis’ For Challenges To EPA Endangerment Finding

    December 14, 2018

    There’s more proof that greenhouse gases are dangerous to human health. That’s the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science, for which researchers reviewed hundreds of scientific papers on climate change published since 2009. ..."[The paper] is a very useful piece of work and it stands in contrast to the arguments against the endangerment finding that have been offered again and again, because those arguments are rarely — if ever — based on science," says Joseph Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School. Goffman worked for the EPA during the Obama administration as the senior counsel in the Office of Air and Radiation, but was not involved in the current research.

  • The EPA has lost its mind

    November 30, 2018

    There's something truly out of place amid a slew of uneventful news releases on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website: Six bizarre sentences, accusing the Obama Administration of distorting climate science..."For the EPA’s political leadership to do this is, one might say, deplorable," Joe Goffman, a former EPA senior counsel in the Office of Air and Radiation, said in an interview. "They’ve done something really flagrant as part of the campaign to foster misinformation to the public about climate science," Goffman, now the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program, added. "I would argue they committed a genuinely cardinal sin with respect to the values of scientific integrity and the trustworthiness they owe the public."