Jun 10, 2019

Most climate-related litigation in the Trump era supports protections

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Adapted from a Columbia Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law; Chart: Axios Visuals

Federal courts have not yet upheld any Trump administration efforts to delay or unwind climate regulations, a new analysis from Columbia University's Sabin Center on Climate Change Law shows.

Why it matters: Courts are a key policy venue at a time when legislation is frozen, Trump is rolling back Obama-era rules, and advocates are pushing for consideration of greenhouses gases to be woven into various federal decisions.

The big picture: The analysis, which updates an early 2018 study, looks at 129 cases in this busy area.

  • Far more cases in federal courts support climate-related protections and policies than oppose them.
  • EPA and the Interior Department were by far the most frequently sued federal agencies.

The intrigue: Lawsuits defending Obama-era policies are just a relatively small share of total climate cases.

  • Instead, many backing protections address trends that pre-date Trump, such as lawsuits pushing agencies to consider emissions when conducting reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
"They also indicate new developments, such as a surge of municipalities suing fossil fuel companies for damages related to their GHG emissions under different tort law claims and a suite of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits seeking transparency from the Trump Administration."
— writes the Sabin Center's Dena P. Adler

What's next: Several big Trump initiatives will be litigated in coming years, including looming regulations to weaken Obama-era auto mileage rules.

Go deeper: Trump's courtroom battles over global warming

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