Year in Review

UCLA Law Magazine | Fall 2020

Emmett Institute Ramps Up Federal Efforts on Environmental Protection

Professor Ann Carlson convened a two-day workshop on federal climate and air-quality law in federal courts.

As the Trump administration continues its push to roll back federal environmental regulations, members of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment this year defended environmental laws and policies through a wide array of litigation engagements and comment letters. This broad effort was driven by individual faculty members and students and faculty in the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic.

Faculty members worked to protect policies regulating emissions from energy and transportation, the country’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. In April, they filed two amicus briefs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and replace it with the weaker Affordable Clean Energy Rule. Emmett Institute faculty contributing to these briefs included William Boyd, Ann Carlson, Benjamin Harris, Sean Hecht, Cara Horowitz and Julia Stein. And over the summer, environmental law clinic faculty members filed an amicus brief on behalf of 29 U.S. Senators and 118 U.S. Representatives in a D.C. Circuit case challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to revoke California’s clean car standards.

Students and faculty also submitted comment letters to federal agencies throughout the year on a range of issues, including a letter to the EPA on behalf of 100 U.S. law professors urging the agency to withdraw its proposed “transparency in science” rule that would foreclose EPA’s ability to rely on important peer-reviewed scientific studies that inform key environmental protections, a change that would strike at the heart of the agency’s mission.

Emmett Institute faculty are also developing ideas for a more ambitious federal response to climate change. In September 2019, Sean Hecht testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on how public agencies can make our coastal infrastructure more resilient to emerging risks related to coastal change. And in July, Ann Carlson partnered with the respected Washington, D.C., think tank Resources for the Future to convene a two-day workshop with scholars, policy experts and Congressional staff members to consider the future of federal climate and air-quality law in our federal courts.

Later this year, Carlson will join a prominent group of scholars in publishing a revised edition of a book on the Clean Air Act, exploring the potential for a little-used provision to develop a national policy for addressing greenhouse gas emissions.