The “canary in a coal mine” is a metaphor originating from the time when caged birds were carried into the mines as an early warning system; the canary would die before methane, and carbon gases reached levels hazardous to humans.
This column, like others in the Canaries in the Coal Mine series, is intended to raise early warnings of dangers that might be lurking beyond the immediate attention of clean energy advocates and climate defenders. Today’s cautionary tale is about the 2018 midterm elections and what they could mean for federal clean energy and climate policies and programs.
The canaries are warning of overconfidence that either or both chambers of Congress will turn Democratic after the polls close on November 6th. They are also tweeting about what the balloting means for the clean energy and climate communities and the dangers of putting all their eggs in the same party’s basket.
The 2018 midterms offer the first real chance, since Trump ascendance, for voters to do more than “write a letter to the Times” expressing their outrage over his toxic personality and Fossil First policies.
Who emerges victorious on the morning of November 7th will go a long way in determining federal clean energy and climate policies through 2023.
Much ink was spilled in reporting the length of the recent tax reform legislation. Philip Bump of the Washington Post, for example, wrote:
I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department
--Donald John Trump, 45th President of the U.S.
This installment of the Here Comes the (Trump) Judges series continues the discussion of the potential long-term impact of Trump’s judicial appointments on climate and clean energy policies and programs. Federal courts in the Trump era are playing an increasingly pivotal role in the efforts of climate and clean energy advocates to maintain existing environmental protections—not only those put in place by the Obama administration but foundational policies and programs dating back to the 1970s.
Action by the Administration, with the complicity of Congressional Republicans, is not limited to rolling back regulations. It includes efforts to hamstring and gut the agencies and offices responsible for carrying out the many clean energy and climate policies on the books for combatting global warming.
In its haste to deregulate and defund, Administration officials from Donald on down are often failing to follow the rule of law, as established by the Administrative Procedures Act and such legislation as the Clean Air and Waters Acts. Enforcement of the rules is increasingly being left to the courts as a result.
Gridlock and hyper-partisanship have made recourse to the more traditional and accessible avenues of action, e.g., internal party dialogue and Congressional debate, less useful. Consequently, the flow of traffic to the courts daily increases. Hardly any Administration action—be it an executive order limiting immigration or an agency’s reticence or refusal to enforce an existing law—goes unchallenged.
I began the Here Comes the (Trump) Judge series because my sense is too little attention is being given to the Administration’s filling of judicial vacancies by the climate and clean energy community.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.