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Happy endings and promising starts on the environment

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 2, 2015

In most ways, 2014 was a good year for environmental protection, with progress on several fronts. True, there are warning signs for 2015 — primarily the Republican sweep of the mid-terms and the Supreme Court’s puzzling decision to review toxics regulations for coal-fired power plants. And of course, there were losses as well as victories, or partial victories where there might have been greater successes. But overall, developments were very positive. Here are ten positive developments:

1. The Supreme Court upheld EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, setting the stage for important reductions in air pollutants with big health benefits.

2. The Court also upheld most of EPA’s permitting requirements for greenhouse gas emissions from new sources, striking down only the regulations applying to a minority of sources that do not emit major amounts of any other air pollutant.

3. The IPCC issued AR5, a comprehensive review of the scientific literature relating to climate change, its impacts, and ways to limit emissions. We know more now than ever before about how bad climate change will be and how to limit the damage.

4. The Supreme Court declined to hear claims that California’s low-carbon fuel standard is unconstitutional on its face.

5. The Council on Environmental Quality resumed its effort to craft guidelines for discussion of climate change in environmental impact statements. The current version is a significant improvement over its predecessors.

6. EPA proposed an ambitious plan to address carbon emissions from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

7. The Supreme Court turned away BP’s effort to escape from its own settlement agreement, paving the way to billions of dollars of compensation to victims of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

8. In Lima, the world’s nations made significant progress in negotiations toward a new international agreement on climate change.

9. The courts upheld use of the Endangered Species Act to provide vitally needed water for endangered fish during California’s drought.

10. To nearly everyone’s surprise, the U.S. and China reached an agreement to take joint action regarding climate change.

So long 2014! Let’s hope that 2015 sees similar progress.

Cross-posted from the environments-law blog Legal Planet.

Comments to “Happy endings and promising starts on the environment

  1. I’m very optimistic that 2015 will also prove to be a great year for the protection of our environment. The really good news is that renewable energy sources like solar and wind are now cost competitive. It is just a matter of time before we transition to a clean energy society.

    Nick Tedesco

  2. Planetary Ignorance

    Why do we look upon the Earth with eyes that will not see
    the damage that man has caused, on shores from sea to sea?
    Denying it all from year to year, the hurt on Earth just grows
    and little notice is taken, just how much? No one knows.
    Melting ice on pole bound lands, flowing to the oceans,
    rising temperature records, creating little commotion.
    Island nations endangered, flooding some of their lands,
    the United Nations hear them, but no one takes a stand.
    Masses of plastic circle the seas that only a few will see,
    poisons polluting the waters and the fish on which we feed.
    Corporations around the world just pay their leaders to lie,
    no involvement do they have and loudly do they cry.
    Populations remain deceived, wondering if they should care,
    only specialist know the truth, to them its such a glare.
    How long can we last when ignorance, takes its mighty toll?
    only the Earth will tell us, when it finally gives up its soul.

    Written by Flowgee

  3. The best way to develop energy security to reduce air pollution and global warming is to go for the alternatives of coal power plants. Because it is a devastating system that put a negative effect for a long duration. Many researches have been done and research articles are written with some secure alternatives like wind, water and sun beat based power system. We need to focus on these findings and move for these alternatives to reduce pollution.

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