Week in Review

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A federal court upholds the CDC’s eviction moratorium, the Justice Department appeals a ruling that stopped a ban on new oil and gas leases, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • A federal district court denied a request to invalidate the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium, which is set to end on October 3, 2021. The court wrote that a prior U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which four dissenting justices and one concurring justice determined that the CDC’s eviction moratorium has exceeded its statutory authority, suggests that the CDC’s most recent eviction moratorium is invalid. The district court noted, though, that the Supreme Court justices’ dissenting opinions are not binding and that the district court was bound by a past opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which upheld the CDC eviction moratorium. The district court noted that the landowners must appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court if they are to continue to challenge the eviction moratorium.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice appealed the decision of a federal district court that ordered the US. Department of the Interior to resume the approval process for new oil and gas leases. The district court’s decision prevents the Interior Department from carrying out President Joseph R. Biden’s executive order, which paused the agency’s approval of new oil and gas leases on public lands and in offshore waters. The Interior Department stated after the district court’s ruling that it would proceed with oil and gas leasing during the appeal, consistent with the district court’s ruling. The Interior Department acknowledged, however, that federal oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for a significant portion of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. The Interior Department stated that it will separately continue to review the permitting and leasing programs’ shortcomings, such as the federal oil and gas programs’ failure to adequately consider climate impacts.
  • A federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that restricts the ability of doctors to provide certain methods of an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. The appellate court acknowledged that dilation and evacuation is a commonly used abortion method after the start of the 15th week of pregnancy but found that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the restriction “would impose an undue burden on a large fraction of women.” The court reasoned that there was no undue burden because other methods of dilation and evacuation abortions could be performed while complying with the Texas law. Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson stated that her organization and the other plaintiffs would continue to fight the ban “in every way possible” and called the ruling “a discriminatory attack on people of color, people with low incomes, women, and those in rural communities.”
  • A federal district court invalidated the 2020 approval of ConocoPhillips’s oil drilling project in Alaska because the Trump-era Bureau of Land Management had excluded greenhouse gas emissions in its environmental impact statement. The court also invalidated the 2020 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval of a permit allowing ConocoPhillips to remove polar bears from the oil drilling site because the permit statement did not sufficiently detail their removal plan. The Biden Administration had defended the Trump Administration’s earlier approval of the oil drilling project and polar bear removal plan. Bridget Psarianos, an attorney at Trustees for Alaska who represented six plaintiffs in this case, called upon the Biden Administration to consider the court’s ruling and honor its “campaign promises of making science-based decisions and protecting biodiversity and taking the concerns of Indigenous populations seriously.”
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a ban on the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food. Chlorpyrifos has a variety of agricultural and non-food uses, such as an insecticide for soybeans and broccoli, but it may cause neurological issues in children as well as pose risks of neurotoxicity. The decision to ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food came after over a decade of legal debates over its use. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan called the agency’s action an “overdue step to protect public health.”
  • Four voting rights groups filed a lawsuit in Arizona challenging recent changes to the state’s early-voting system as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The voting groups challenged two recently enacted laws: the Voter Purge Law, which removes voters from early voting lists if they do not cast a mail-in ballot in two consecutive elections, and the Cure Period Law, which requires that early ballots submitted without a signature be corrected by 7:00 PM on election day. The challengers claimed that the laws violate voting rights for all state citizens and discriminate against people of color. Katie Conner, spokesperson for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, reportedly stated that Brnovich will continue to defend Arizona’s voting laws, noting that the Attorney General recently won another case before the Supreme Court that involved a different pair of Arizona voting restrictions.
  • In a lawsuit filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged that the U.S. Department of Defense failed to comply with a previous court ruling. The previous ruling overturned a Trump Administration policy mandating that non-U.S. members of the armed forces must serve for a minimum of six months to one year before they can apply for citizenship. The ACLU presented evidence that four Army basic training bases continue to impose the illegal minimum service requirement and that the Defense Department had repeatedly failed to process military certification requests within 30 days as required by the court ruling. The ACLU demanded that the Defense Department comply with the court ruling and explain its failure to abide by it.. The ACLU commented that the motion was filed after “negotiations with the Biden Administration reached an impasse because the Department of Defense has failed to take actions necessary to fix the issues faced by service members.”
  • The Bureau of Reclamation published its monthly study projections for the Colorado River Basin, which are used to determine Lake Mead and Lake Powell’s future operations. Based on the projections and ongoing drought facing the Colorado River Basin, the Bureau declared that certain cutbacks in water usage in Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will be required because Lake Mead will operate under a “Level 1 Shortage Condition,” defined as the initial stage of water shortage that requires significant cutbacks, for the first time in history in 2022. The reductions are expected to impact Arizona farmers most significantly.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a brief released earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Energy analyzed ways in which investments in solar energy can support President Biden’s plan to achieve a largely decarbonized electricity sector by 2035. The Energy Department acknowledged that, although solar is the fastest-growing electricity generation source in the United States, solar deployment would need to accelerate three to four times faster than its current rate to meet Biden’s 2035 decarbonization goals. The Energy Department argued that, through 2050, investment areas such as clean energy tax credits, electricity transmission and storage, solar technology innovation and advanced manufacturing, and community access to solar technology at all income levels should receive multi-billion dollar funding. The Energy Department concluded that it plans to continue to play a key role in the research, investment, and deployment of clean energy in the United States.
  • In a recent working paper, Nicholas K. Tabor, Katherine Di Lucido, and Jeffrey Y. Zhang of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System chronicled the history of the boundaries of the U.S. financial regulatory system. Tabor, Di Lucido, and Zhang argued that the boundaries of the U.S. financial regulatory system—meaning the definitions separating firms that legally conduct banking activities and those that do not—have become more expansive, complex, and “permeable.” They concluded that, although most companies providing financial services today are subject to some degree of regulatory oversight, firms’ decisions related to how they form their legal structures and the scope of the financial services that they offer can still influence how they are regulated.
  • In an article in the Yale Journal on Regulation, Robert L. Fischman and Vicky Meretsky, professors at Indiana University, and Matthew Castelli, Senior Assistant Regional Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, argued that regulations made under the Endangered Species Act should encourage cooperation between government and private actors. Fischman, Meretsky, and Castelli contended that the Endangered Species Act, which seems to require strict rulemaking for threatened species, actually allows for rulemaking tailored to specific situations. For instance, Fischman, Meretsky, and Castelli noted that regulations differ across sectors, such as farming, water infrastructure, and residential housing projects. Fischman, Meretsky, and Castelli maintained that conservation requirements that are cooperatively created by private and government actors may improve species recovery even if they impose requirements that are less strict than existing regulations. Fischman, Meretsky, and Castelli, however, cautioned that cooperative governance must be limited so that private actors are not given free reign to determine their own conservation obligations.

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