The recent Supreme Court decision in Gundy v US may portend a significant change in the way Congress drafts environmental legislation—indeed how it drafts all legislation—in the future. The recent Supreme Court decision in Gundy v US may portend a significant change in the way Congress drafts environmental legislation—indeed how it drafts all legislation—in the future. The case, brought by a convicted child rapist, challenges sex offender registration requirements. Looking past the lurid details of the case, the question before the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) involves the question of what constitutes a permissible delegation of power from Congress to the executive branch of government.
It is nearly impossible to conceive of any environmental law enacted in the past half-century or more that does not involve a Congressional grant of authority to the executive branch of government. Take, for example, Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act[i] (CAA) that provides:
The [EPA] Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare … . (emphasis added)
The Supreme Court’s interpretation of this and other CAA provisions in the case of Massachusetts v US confirmed the authority of the Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG) as qualified air pollutants under the Act. Moreover, the Massachusetts court determined that a finding of endangerment by the Agency obligated it to regulate GHG emissions.
Unless the transition to a clean energy economy is based on unifying politics, this next iteration
will also prove another adventure in pyrrhic rhetoric.
The California Democrat Party held its state convention ten days ago. In addition to organizational business, the 5,000 delegates and guests heard from 14 of the contenders for the right to take on Trump in 2020.
The California convention was described by the Los Angeles Times as a festival of dissent aimed at driving President Trump from office amidst chanting, clapping and occasionally squabbling. Today’s commentary is about the squabbling within the ranks of California’s Democratic Party. It is a squabble playing itself out nationally between union labor and progressive climate activists, and it portends problems for Democrats in the 2020 elections.
As defending against climate change is a priority of the Democratic Party and mostly pandered by the Republican, a Democratic loss in 2020 is a loss for the environment. Four more years of Trump and the entire framework of national environmental protection laws will likely be in total tatters.
Amid the chanting, clapping and soaring oratory in San Francisco was the election of Rusty Hicks as chair of the California Democratic Party. The 39-year old Hicks is a product of organ-ized labor with solid Democratic credentials.
Hicks served in the California Assembly before becoming the political director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO (LA Fed) in 2006 and its president in 2015. Hicks also served as the California Political Director for the 2008 Obama for America campaign. His election is considered a win for the establishment, and his victory owed much to union support.
The LA Fed is the chartered Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO in Los Angeles County. Representing over 300 unions and more than 800,000 workers, the Los Angeles Council is the second largest in the nation
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.