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Richard Lazarus

  • ‘Why is it so hard to make environmental law?’

    April 18, 2023

    Harvard Law School Professor Professor Richard Lazarus tells the story of challenges and hope inherent in environmental law.

  • With Two Key Picks, Biden Weaves Climate Into Economy and Regulations

    February 21, 2023

    This week, President Biden announced that Lael Brainard, the vice chair of the Federal Reserve who is known for citing the financial risks posed by…

  • A man, Andrew Mergen, in a dark blue sweater.

    Andrew Mergen will lead the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law

    January 3, 2023

    Former Department of Justice chief and appellate lawyer Andrew Mergen will join Harvard Law School as director of the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

  • Breyer’s legacy: A centrist, pragmatic problem-solver and defender of the court’s reputation

    December 7, 2022

    In nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer routinely found himself on the losing side of contentious issues but managed to…

  • Richard Lazarus and Jody Freeman.

    How inflation act may help rescue greenhouse-gas goals of repealed Clean Power Plan

    November 16, 2022

    Harvard Law School professors Richard Lazarus and Jody Freeman discuss the importance of the Inflation Reduction Act in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to block the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

  • How inflation act may help rescue greenhouse-gas goals of repealed Clean Power Plan

    November 16, 2022

    The Supreme Court delivered a major blow to U.S. climate change efforts in June when it struck down the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which had…

  • You thought the Supreme Court’s last term was bad? Brace yourself.

    October 18, 2022

    The cataclysmic Supreme Court term that included the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion and the end of constitutional protection for abortion would, in the…

  • You thought the Supreme Court’s last term was bad? Brace yourself.

    September 30, 2022

    The cataclysmic Supreme Court term that included the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion and the end of constitutional protection for abortion would, in the…

  • Justice Alito’s Crusade Against a Secular America Isn’t Over

    August 29, 2022

    Some baby boomers were permanently shaped by their participation in the countercultural protests and the antiwar activism of the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Others were shaped…

  • U.S. Supreme Court building, looking up towards the sky from the bottom of the stairs.

    Harvard Law faculty weigh in: The 2021-2022 Supreme Court Term

    June 25, 2022

    Harvard Law School experts weigh in on the Supreme Court’s final decisions.

  • Cases in Brief: Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife with Richard Lazarus

    April 29, 2022

    In this installment of “Cases in Brief,” Harvard Law Professor Richard Lazarus ’79 discusses the landmark citizen-suit case, Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992), which hindered the ability to bring environmental citizen suits for much of the 1990s.

  • A globe of planet earth on the background of blurred lights of a city.

    Inspiring change

    April 22, 2022

    On Earth Day, we highlight some of the work being done by Harvard Law students, scholars, clinics, and programs to address some our most pressing environmental issues.

  • Suing over climate change: Taking fossil fuel companies to court

    April 18, 2022

    If climate change were a disaster film, it would likely be accused of being too over-the-top: wildfires reducing entire towns to ashes, hurricanes swamping cities, droughts draining lakes and withering fields, and raging oceans redrawing the very maps of our coasts. And now, many cities and states are asking, who's going to pay for all of this? ... Richard Lazarus, who teaches environmental law at Harvard, said, "The scope of the problem is one that requires really a national approach. Cities and counties and states are being the ones left with the problem when the federal government doesn't step up to the plate." Lazarus said even if the cities and states prove the fossil fuel companies deceived the public about climate change, it doesn't necessarily mean they will win: "They've done a really good job of showing that the oil and gas industry, I think, engaged in fraudulent activity. The challenge will be causation, to prove that their fraudulent behavior is what prevented the United States from passing the laws we needed to reduce those greenhouse gas emissions."

  • Supreme Court hints at constraining Biden on climate

    March 3, 2022

    The Supreme Court looks likely to limit the executive authority to issue sweeping climate rules without new legislation, but it's unclear if they'll unite around broader limits on regulatory power. Catch up fast: The high court held arguments Monday in related cases about now-defunct regulations to curb carbon emissions from the electricity sector, the second-largest U.S. source of heat-trapping gases. A few takeaways: 1. New limits appear likely. Harvard Law professor Richard Lazarus said there appear to be six votes to "align" the case with recent rulings against the federal eviction moratorium and vaccine mandates. That would prompt the court to "sharply cut back on EPA’s authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants," he said via email.

  • In EPA Supreme Court case, the agency’s power to combat climate change hangs in the balance

    February 28, 2022

    President Biden’s ambitious plans to combat climate change, blocked by an uncooperative Congress, face an equally tough test next week at the Supreme Court. With the court’s conservative justices increasingly suspicious that agencies are overstepping their powers, the case’s outcome could not only reshape U.S. environmental policy but also call into question the authority of regulators to tackle the nation’s most pressing problems. ... Biden’s team has yet to issue its own plan for the power sector. For that reason, environmentalists took it as an “earthquake” when the Supreme Court accepted the case last fall, said Harvard Law School professor Richard Lazarus. It appeared to signal a move on the part of the court’s conservatives to delineate — and probably trim — the EPA’s powers before there were even regulations to review. ... The policy that sparked this battle — the Clean Power Plan — is now moot, since the market has done what regulators could not. “The targets were achieved way in advance, more than a decade before they would have been required,” said Carrie Jenks, executive director of Harvard’s Environmental & Energy Law Program.

  • Supreme Court Will Hear Biggest Climate Change Case in a Decade

    February 28, 2022

    In the most important environmental case in more than a decade, the Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a dispute that could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control the pollution that is heating the planet. ... “If the court were to require the E.P.A. to have very specific, narrow direction to address greenhouse gases, as a practical matter it could be devastating for other agencies’ abilities to enact rules that safeguard the public health and welfare of the nation,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. “It would restrict the enactment of regulations under any host of federal statutes — OSHA, the Clean Water Act, hazardous waste regulation. In theory it even could limit the Fed’s authority to set interest rates.” ... “The regulated industry itself is saying that they are not fighting the authority of E.P.A.,” said Jody Freeman, a lawyer at Harvard and former climate official in the Obama White House. “The court will be attentive, I think, to what the industry says,” she said, noting that in a recent case over the Biden administration’s Covid vaccine mandate for large employers, the Supreme Court blocked the mandate except in the case of health care workers, who requested the regulation.

  • With Breyer’s Exit, a Farewell to Marshmallow Guns and Tomato Children

    February 2, 2022

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer has a mild temperament, and he writes cautious opinions. But his questions from the bench can be wild flights of fancy, enlivening the proceedings with musings about marshmallow guns, aspirin fingers, tomato children and the Pussycat Burglar. In an affectionate tribute issued soon after Justice Breyer announced last week that he planned to retire, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. noted this striking aspect of his colleague’s work. ... “Breyer’s unique signature at oral argument — which challenged and often befuddled lawyers appearing before the bench — was the sheer length of his questions,” Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard, wrote in an essay published on Friday.

  • Judges Increasingly Demand Climate Analysis in Drilling Decisions

    January 31, 2022

    A judge’s decision this week to invalidate the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in the nation’s history, on grounds that the government had failed to take climate change into consideration, shows that regulatory decisions that disregard global warming are increasingly vulnerable to legal challenges, analysts said Friday. ... “This would not have been true 10 years ago for climate analysis,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University. He said it is “a big win” that courts are forcing government agencies to include “a very robust and holistic analysis of climate” as part of the decision-making when it comes to whether or not to drill on public lands and waters.

  • The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021

    Pragmatic Justice

    January 27, 2022

    Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer ’64, who focused on the consequences of his judicial decisions, has announced that he will step down after more than a quarter century on the Court.

  • Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Announces His Retirement At The White House

    On the Court, Breyer had a ‘deeply thoughtful, learned, humane, and pragmatic approach’

    January 27, 2022

    In the wake of the news that Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer ’64 will retire at the end of the current term, Harvard Law School faculty members offer their thoughts on his tenure, legacy, and how the nation’s highest court could change after his departure.

  • Stephen Breyer

    Justice Stephen Breyer — a passionate pragmatist

    January 27, 2022

    Richard Lazarus ’79, a Supreme Court advocate and the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law, reflects on Justice Breyer's "striking pragmatism" — and passion — during his 28 years on the Court.