Now that the “Big Six”[1] have announced that they will release an agreed-upon tax reform plan the week of September 25, the question becomes: Can they actually get it done? Is there enough time, motivation and a clear path forward to get permanent tax reform done in 2017? The answer is yes, it could happen. Politics will be the driving force, and the budget reconciliation process will provide the opportunity.

Continue Reading Why Congress Will Pass Permanent Tax Reform in 2017

The latest news is full of stories of federal agencies reviewing and, in some cases, rescinding environmental regulations and cutting agency spending. From these reports, it could seem the federal government might also cut back its enforcement of environmental laws. But in fact, even in this turbulent regulatory and fiscal appropriations landscape, enforcement–particularly criminal enforcement–of core existing environmental laws is one aspect of environmental regulation that is sure to continue.

Continue Reading Environmental Enforcement Efforts Continue Amid Regulatory Rollbacks

The Cocktail Conundrum
A common question that we all ask whenever we meet someone new in a social setting is “what do you do?” This seemingly innocuous question always makes me brace myself for the inevitable exchange that will follow. When I say that I am an environmental attorney, the next question is almost always whether I work for the “good” or “bad” guys. The clear assumption in this question is that environmental advocacy groups are “good,” while industry parties are “bad.” But is this issue really that black and white? Based on my experience, no. The issue is far from being that simplistic.
Continue Reading The Cocktail Conundrum

Corporate_Business Meeting Backli

Recently, the states and federal agencies have clashed in a number of environmental rulemakings and subsequent litigation over those rules. These disagreements have raised a host of important legal and policy questions, including the proper balance of power between the states and the federal government and the communication process and overall relationship between the states and federal agencies. Recently filed litigation challenging the Stream Protection Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 93,066 (Dec. 20, 2016), would prompt judicial review of many of these issues. But the likelihood of administrative or congressional action on this rule (through the Congressional Review Act) could preclude judicial input on these questions for now. If the rule is ultimately withdrawn or overturned, the manner in which it is may also present important federalism questions. Further complicating this process are two motions to intervene in two of these cases, filed by several environmental groups to defend the final Stream Protection Rule from being vacated or weakened.

Continue Reading Continuing Federalism Issues Emerge in Challenges to Stream Protection Rule

The U.S. Supreme Court is not the only one keen on taking a closer look at deference to agency interpretations. Just as the Supreme Court will have an opportunity “to rein in a particularly aggressive use of agency deference” later this year, the House of Representatives is also set to take aim at judicial deference to agency interpretations through the recently proposed Regulatory Accountability Act (the Act) — a compilation of several earlier reform bills. A similar act was proposed last July and passed the House, but was ultimately not considered by the Senate. With the new incoming administration, however, the Act may have an increased chance of success.

Continue Reading Congress May Take a Stab at Limiting Judicial Deference

Food_Candy Pops

Recently, several of the environmental attorneys in our Washington office gathered together to sign holiday cards. During the festivities, the song “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton played, leading to a spirited discussion of what did the words “a hard candy Christmas” mean? Was this type of Christmas good or bad? Was this song happy or sad?

Continue Reading “A Hard Candy Christmas” and Environmental Law

With Republican control of the executive and legislative branches of government after the November 8 election, attention has turned to the Congressional Review Act and its powers to “get rid of the regulations that are just destroying us,” in the words of President-elect Trump.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA or the Act) was enacted in 1996. It is a tool for Congress to exercise authority over executive and independent agencies, allowing Congress to override an agency’s final action by passing a joint resolution of disapproval.

Continue Reading A New Day for the Congressional Review Act