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Killing California car pollution rules could kill speed limits

If you want to upend a half-century of legal tradition, you better have a damn-solid argument to justify your move. Especially if it’s a legal move so broad that it could nullify local speed limits.

President Donald Trump is attempting a tectonic upheaval of precedent by telling California it can’t set its own rules for the greenhouse gases coming out of cars. The administration’s rationale is so broad, according to one law professor, that it would wipe out a lot more than the state’s ability to set its own standards. It could also outlaw state gas taxes, city speed limits, and various other local rules. If courts agree, the Trump administration’s case would lead to a tremendous shift of power from state and local governments to Washington.

“Their interpretation is just so broad, and so lacking in any limiting principles, that I couldn’t determine why even the most silly example wouldn’t apply,” said Greg Dotson, an assistant professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, who wrote a paper examining the administration’s argument.

Since the late 1960s, California has been setting car-pollution rules that go beyond the federal standards, and, until recently, the federal government has endorsed that as a reasonable way for state governments to deal with their own unique situations. It all started because California had more cars and more smog than other states.

But now the Trump Administration is trying to change all that, basing its argument on a line from the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which covers federal fuel economy standards. The relevant part:

“no State or political subdivision of a State shall have authority to adopt or enforce any law or regulation relating to fuel economy standards or average fuel economy standards applicable to automobiles covered by such Federal standard.”

On its face, that seems pretty cut and dry. If there’s a federal gas mileage standard, states and cities can’t mess with it. But if that’s the right interpretation, Dotson notes, there’s a ton of laws “relating to fuel economy standards” that would be in deep trouble. Gas taxes and speed limits affect vehicles’ fuel economy more than California’s greenhouse gas rules, as do local laws like bans on idling cars (which exist in nine states and many cities), and rules on the speed you can go when towing a trailer.

“Would anyone expect or want some 50-year-old law to pre-empt every state gas tax?” Dotson asked. “It’s goofy.”

There’s a lot more legalese to the administration’s argument, but that line from the Energy Policy and Conservation Act is the foundation, said Caitlin McCoy a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.

“It’s everything,” McCoy said. “And it’s indicative of the strategy that the Trump administration has employed on environmental issues, looking for limiting principles in the underlying statutes so they can achieve the biggest cuts to authority.”

And it’s not like the Trump White House is strictly interested in slashing state authority. It argued on the side of state’s rights when fighting the Clean Power Plan, McCoy said.

California and 22 other states have already sued the Trump administration in federal court to stop the move. That means the courts will decide whether there’s any good reason to let states keep the power to set their own rules. If you want a preview of how this might play out in court, it’s worth looking at the last attempt to take away the rights of states to regulate car emissions. In 2007, President George W. Bush’s administration tried to strip California’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from cars. But the Bush administration wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about pursuing the case. As Dotson wrote, a lawyer from the EPA explained that “After review of the docket and precedent, we don’t believe there are any good arguments against granting the waiver [allowing California to regulate greenhouse gases]. All of the arguments . . . are likely to lose in court if we are sued.”

But we never saw that put to the test. When President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, he granted California’s authority to make its own rules, putting off the fight until now.

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Killing California car pollution rules could kill speed limits

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AOC, Bernie and … Blumenauer? Who’s the third politician behind the call for a climate emergency?

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Oregon Republicans go into hiding to avoid voting on climate bill

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Oregon Republicans go into hiding to avoid voting on climate bill

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The Most (and Least) Eco-Friendly US Cities

You might try to live an eco-friendly lifestyle at home. But how green is your community?

According to a Pew Research Center survey, roughly 59 percent of U.S. adults say climate change is affecting their community in some way ? through weather, temperature changes, etc. And that point of view is even stronger in those who live near a coastline. Plus, according to another Pew survey, the majority of respondents think the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to protect the environment, including preventing water pollution, ensuring safe air quality and protecting animals and their habitats.

But not all communities are equal when it comes to being environmentally friendly. WalletHub recently released a study of the 100 largest U.S. cities, comparing 26 “green indicators” ? i.e., factors that made the city more or less eco-friendly. It broke these factors into four main categories: environment, transportation, energy sources and lifestyle/policy. And each city received an overall green score based on points applied to the green indicators.

These are the 10 cities WalletHub found to be the most environmentally friendly, the 10 that could use some green improvements and some tips to make your own community a little more eco-friendly.

The Most Environmentally-Friendly Cities

Here are the top 10 greenest cities in the U.S., according to WalletHub.

10. Portland, Oregon

Credit: RyanJLane/Getty Images

Portland cracked the top 10 with a solid performance in some categories and a mediocre showing in others. It ranked 18th in energy sources and 59th in the environment category ? which measured factors, such as air quality, green space, water quality and light pollution. But Portland boosted its overall green score with an eighth-place finish in the transportation category ? in which it received the fourth highest bike score. And it took third in lifestyle/policy, in which it also came in third for the most farmers markets per capita.

9. Sacramento, California

Sacramento fared a little better than Portland in the environment category, coming in 38th place. It also took 19th for energy sources and ninth for lifestyle/policy. But its best showing was its fourth-place finish in the transportation category. That category included factors, such as the share of commuters who drive alone, the average commute time, the city’s walk and bike scores and the accessibility of jobs by public transit.

8. Seattle, Washington

Seattle just edged out Sacramento’s green score for eighth place overall. The city ranked 25th in the environment category, 21st in energy sources and 12th in transportation. And it was near the top of the pack for lifestyle/policy, finishing fourth. Metrics in that category included farmers markets and community-supported agriculture per capita, community garden plots per capita, green job opportunities and the number of local programs that promote green energy.

7. Fremont, California

Fremont was fairly average in two of the categories and stellar in the other two. It came in 52nd for transportation and 32nd for lifestyle/policy. But it took second place for environment ? and within that category it came in first for the highest percentage of green space. Plus, it was No. 1 in the energy sources category ? which included metrics, such as electricity from renewable sources, solar installations per capita and amount of smart-energy initiatives.

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

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Who doesn’t love the environment of a Hawaiian island? Honolulu’s worst category rank was its 24th-place finish in energy sources. But it made up for that by taking fifth in environment, fifth in lifestyle/police and second in transportation. Within the categories, the city had the fifth lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Plus, it tied for first (with Fremont and Alaska) for the highest percentage of green space. And it also tied for first for the most farmers markets per capita.

5. San Jose, California

San Jose’s overall green score just barely put it in front of Honolulu for its fifth-place finish. The city did fairly well in the transportation and lifestyle/policy categories, coming in 24th and 21st respectively. It took 13th for energy sources. And San Jose’s best category rank was its 10th-place finish in environment.

4. Irvine, California

Continuing California’s domination of the top 10 greenest cities, Irvine’s overall score was just a few tenths of a point better than San Jose’s ? landing it in fourth place. The city’s only category rank out of the top 10 was its 27th-place finish in transportation. It took seventh in both the environment and lifestyle/policy categories. And it came in at No. 1 for energy sources.

3. Washington, D.C.

Even though many people wish the government would do more to combat climate change (or even admit it exists), the nation’s capital still is one of the greenest cities in the U.S. Washington, D.C., ranked 35th for environment and 17th for energy sources. It took sixth in the transportation category, in which it had the third lowest percentage of commuters who drive. (Not everyone gets a motorcade to stop D.C. traffic.) And, somewhat ironically, D.C. took No. 1 for lifestyle/policy ? despite the ongoing political arguments on policies that would help the environment.

2. San Francisco, California

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We head back to the West Coast for the top two greenest cities. San Francisco took 20th for energy sources, ninth for transportation and sixth for environment. Within the transportation category, the city had the fourth lowest percentage of commuters who drive, and it received the second highest bike score, only behind Minneapolis. Plus, San Francisco ranked second for lifestyle/policy ? tying for first (with Honolulu) for the most farmers markets per capita.

1. San Diego, California

San Diego took home the title for 2019′s greenest city in the United States ? and underscored California’s dominance on the list. It ranked 19th in both the transportation and lifestyle/policy categories. And within lifestyle/policy, it came in fourth for the most farmers markets per capita. Plus, San Diego’s best category rank was its fourth-place finish in environment.

The Least Environmentally-Friendly Cities

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These 10 cities ranked at the bottom of WalletHub’s list.

10. Gilbert, Arizona
9. Cleveland, Ohio
8. Mesa, Arizona
7. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
6. Detroit, Michigan
5. Memphis, Tennessee
4. Toledo, Ohio
3. St. Louis, Missouri
2. Corpus Christi, Texas
1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Of those cities, Corpus Christi ? along with Houston; Denver; Oklahoma City; Louisville, Kentucky; and Tulsa, Oklahoma ? had some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Plus, Baton Rouge and Lexington ? along with Fresno, California; Laredo, Texas; and Hialeah, Florida ? had very little green space compared to the other cities.

How to Be a Greener Member of Your Community

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Regardless of where your city falls on this list (or whether it’s even on here at all), there are still several ways you can help to make your home a more eco-friendly place. Here are some tips to go green in your community.

Support local establishments

Instead of shopping at big box stores, support your community’s establishments that sell products made from local materials. A prime example of this: Eat at restaurants that source food from the area, and shop at farmers markets whenever possible.


You know carpooling (and using public transit) is eco-friendly, but do you practice what you preach? Start a carpool group for school, work or even trips to the store. Even better, choose more sustainable methods of transportation whenever possible, such as walking and biking. Lobby your city for bike lanes and walking paths if you don’t already have them.

Organize Recycling Drives

Some communities have very accessible recycling and donation drives. But others make it difficult to sustainably get rid of items you no longer want. If your community falls into the latter camp, step up as an organizer. Learn what’s necessary to hold donation drives ? as well as recycling events for items, such as toxic waste and electronics. Your community will thank you.

Connect with Community Members

A strong team can get things done more efficiently than a lone person. Find other members of your community who also care about building a more eco-friendly environment. Learn from each other, and band together to organize events, such as area cleanups, a community garden or even a Food Not Lawns initiative.

Bring issues to Local Government

You and your other eco-friendly community members will likely have to work with local government on many green initiatives. Do your homework, so you’re prepared to lobby for your causes. Ask your government about issues, such as reducing pesticide use, enacting greener building practices, expanding the recycling program or implementing a community solar project. Progress might be slow, but don’t let that discourage you from putting your voice out there.

Main image credit: Ron_Thomas/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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The Most (and Least) Eco-Friendly US Cities

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What would a national emergency over climate change look like?

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Well, it finally happened: President Trump declared a national emergency in order to secure funding for his barrier between Mexico and the United States. We are under virtually no threat from illegal immigration through the southern border. Phew! But don’t put up your feet just yet, the U.S. actually is facing a pretty terrifying threat, not from immigrants, but from climate change.

Now that Trump has set a precedent, some are raising the point that a different president could use the same maneuver to declare a national emergency over rising temperatures. After all, rising sea levels, worsening hurricanes, wildfires, invasive species, and droughts threaten millions of Americans. Talk about a national security crisis.

Shortly after Trump made his declaration, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar took to Twitter to call on the next president to declare climate change a national emergency upon taking office. If the idea catches on, 2020 Democrats might have to decide not only whether they support the Green New Deal, but also whether they would be willing to take that commitment to the next level.

Hold your horses, can a future president use emergency power to combat climate change? And if so, what would that even look like?

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Dan Farber, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined the idea of a climate change national emergency in a blog post. It turns out there are a few things a future president might be able to do to mitigate climate change through such a move. Here are the areas Farber thinks are worth exploring (these options are as of yet untested, could look different in practice, AND, as Farber told us in an earlier story, just ’cause it’s possible in theory doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea):

Oil drilling could be put on pause. “Oil leases are required to have clauses allowing them to be suspended during national emergencies,” Farber writes. If climate change is causing the emergency, doesn’t it make sense to pump the brakes on the stuff causing it? Hmmm?
The Secretary of Transportation, who is in charge of transportation coordination during national emergencies, could restrict use of gas-powered vehicles.
The renewable energy industry could get an influx of financial support, because a provision allows “the President to extend loan guarantees to critical industries during national emergencies,” Farber writes.
There’s even an act that could be invoked to give the president power to “impose sanctions on individuals and countries.” In a national climate change emergency scenario, the act could be used to sanction oil-producing countries.

In a national emergency, the president gets nearly 150 special powers. The options listed above are just a few of the ways those powers could be used in the name of climate change mitigation.

Already, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer has announced he will be introducing a “congressional emergency declaration on the climate crisis” in Congress. Get ready, GOP! Even if the Supreme Court ends up striking down the border wall, Trump just opened Pandora’s Box.

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What would a national emergency over climate change look like?

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What Washington and Oregon taught us about climate action at the ballot

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Two climate-friendly taxes, two different results.

Washingtonians turned down another shot at having the country’s first “carbon fee” this week. Initiative 1631 was rejected by 56 percent of voters, faring only slightly better than the revenue-neutral carbon tax that met a similar fate two years ago.

Across the border in Portland, Oregon, the climate had better luck. Voters in the city backed the Portland Clean Energy Initiative, which aims to raise $30 million a year for renewables and clean-energy job training through a tax on big retailers.

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What can we learn from comparing these two grassroots measures in one of the country’s blue strongholds, the Northwest? They have some key differences: Washington’s promised a whole-scale, state-level climate policy; Portland’s concerned a single step for climate action at the city level.

But the parallels are striking. They were both clean-energy campaigns that faced misleading tactics and an outpouring of money from corporate opposition. And they both showed that it’s possible to build a broad, diverse coalition of labor, environmental, and justice organizations behind climate policy — something activists have said needs to happen for years.

Their respective fates can’t be waved away as politics as usual. In King County, home to the progressive bastion of Seattle, 57 percent of voters supported I-1631, not enough backing to overcome opposition from conservative parts of the state. In hyper-progressive Portland, 64 percent went for the clean energy initiative. How do you explain that?

Money talks

Here’s one explanation: money. That’s certainly part of it. The campaign against Washington’s carbon fee raised $31 million, with 99 percent of that coming from oil and gas companies. That’s the most that’s been raised for a ballot initiative in state history. Supporters of the fee raised slightly less than half of that — around $15 million — with big donations from Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg.

“We have just got to figure out a way for big corporations to not be able to buy elections,” said Nick Abraham, spokesperson for Yes on 1631.

In Portland, the spending was more evenly matched. The opposition campaign raised $1.4 million, with big donations from Amazon, Walmart, and other companies, according to the Oregon Secretary of State. Portland Clean Energy Initiative backers raised almost as much: $1.2 million.

What’s in a name?

Almost 70 percent of Washington voters, including a majority of the state’s Republicans, say they would support a measure to regulate carbon pollution — at least in the abstract, surveys show. But it’s still pretty hard to get people to vote for an actual tax, even if you call it something else.

Washington’s measure was technically a fee because its revenue would have gone straight to a designated purpose, as opposed to a general tax that raises revenue the legislature might spend on whatever it wants. The hope was that the “fee” language would be less off-putting for voters.

But you can’t run away from the t-word. “As soon as the opponents start organizing, they’re going to call it a tax,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, told me in an interview earlier this year.

Boy, was he right. The No on 1631 campaign made sure that everyone in Washington saw the words “unfair energy tax” in the television ads and mailers that blanketed the state.

Lost in the details

I-1631 was a complex policy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it likely made countering the opposition’s message much harder. It gave the No campaign plenty of lines of attack. It pointed out that gas prices would rise under the tax, that some big polluters would be exempted, and that the money would be handled by an unelected board. Yes on 1631 had responses to all of these points, but the No message resonated, even among some Democrats.

Portland’s measure was simpler. The opposition campaign similarly said the tax on big retailers would be passed to consumers and businesses. But that was pretty much it. Advocates had only one argument to refute, said Coalition of Communities of Color Advocacy Director Jenny Lee, making it less confusing for voters and easier to communicate their rebuttal (no, this will be paid by big corporations!).

“It’s hard to fight multiple fires,” Lee said. “It’s no comment on how the [Yes on 1631] campaign did, but there are challenges of putting complex policy before the voter.”

Back to the legislature

Would a complex climate policy have a better chance in front of elected officials? We may find out next year. The good news in the Northwest is that more climate champions are headed to office.

“Stepping back, I am truly more hopeful at any point than I have been since 2008 or 2009,” said Gregg Small, executive director of the Climate Solutions, a Pacific Northwest-based clean energy nonprofit. Small said support for action in both states looks stronger than it did before.

Some races are still shaking out as absentee ballots roll in, but it’s clear that Oregon will have a supermajority of Democrats in the Senate next year. Oregon legislators had already made passing a cap-and-trade bill a priority for 2019. And in Washington, there’s already talk of taking another carbon pricing bill to the state legislature. (A carbon tax failed in the state legislature this year by a single vote.)

Governor Jay Inslee assured me in an interview back in May that if I-1631 failed, there’d be another big push to enact a carbon tax, fee, price, or whatever you want to call it. “One way or another,” he explained, “we’re going to get this job done.”

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What Washington and Oregon taught us about climate action at the ballot

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Washington state residents resort to giant fans and throwing rocks at the smoke to get it to go away

This week, breathing in Seattle air was the equivalent to smoking around a third of a pack of cigarettes a day, thanks to smoke from wildfires raging in Canada and the Cascades. On Monday, air quality in Spokane was the worst in the country, forcing people to don masks or stay inside. You know what they say: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Rather than wait for the interminable smoke to dissipate, some Washington residents elected to take matters into their own hands.

One Spokane Facebook event implored its nearly 2,000 attendees to: “Blow Spokane’s Smoke Back to Canada.” “To get rid of this smoke, we have to work together as a community,” the event’s description says. “After much deliberation and mathematical calculation, we have figured that it is absolutely possible for us to blow this smoke away with high powered fans.”

Thayne Jongeward

The haze may be thick and disorienting, but Spokanites know a couple thousand box fans can’t reverse the smoky effects of decades of forest mismanagement and rising temperatures. That didn’t stop them from taking credit, though, when the smoke finally started to lift on Thursday morning. “IT IS WORKING!!!” wrote one resident, adding: “KEEP PUFFING AND BLOWING, AND THANK YOU!!!”

Another Facebook event with over 43,000 attendees had a similar idea: Throw rocks at the smoke. “I strongly believe with enough rocks, we can make the smoke leave,” the event organizer wrote. Yet another page suggests positioning a giant fan over the state of Idaho. All of these satirical events promote ways to donate to B.C. food banks, animal shelters, and the Red Cross.

I asked my friend Alexandru Oarcea, who’s a hotshot firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, about the box fan plan. He thought it was cute but pointed out a major flaw: “If, by some miracle they were able to create enough wind to start to push it to Canada, it would just suck the smoke from Oregon and California in behind it.”

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Washington state residents resort to giant fans and throwing rocks at the smoke to get it to go away

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Here are the carbon pricing battles to watch right now

Massachusetts, Washington state, and the District of Columbia have a decent shot this year at passing the first law that looks anything like a carbon tax.

While 81 percent of economists say that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade policy is the most effective way to cut carbon pollution, state legislatures haven’t been so easy to convince. Carbon tax proposals keep crashing and burning, even in reliably blue states like Washington and Oregon.

The only state to put an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions is California, where a cap-and-trade program began more than a decade ago. Now, the concept of a carbon fee is gaining popularity. The strategy ensures that funds go straight to a designated purpose, rather than being collected and used by the government like a more general tax.

There’s some trepidation about passing a carbon price because there aren’t many examples out there, says Jamie DeMarco, state-level carbon pricing coordinator at the grassroots advocacy organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “Legislatures are hesitant to be the first one to enact a policy,” he says.

Will the second half of 2018 bring better luck for state-level climate action? Here are the three efforts to watch.


On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan carbon pricing bill as part of a larger energy package. Now the bill is heading to the state House, where its fate is uncertain.

Its language around the carbon price is “pretty light on the details,” says DeMarco. Technically, the legislation calls for something called a “market-based compliance mechanism” (yawn). DeMarco anticipates that the state would implement a carbon fee if the legislation passes, but says that the language is vague enough to allow for a cap-and-trade system instead. The Massachusetts governor would determine most of the details of how it works, as Benjamin Storrow reports.

If the House fails to pass the carbon pricing portion of the energy bill, DeMarco says, it’s still possible that the provision could get added back in when negotiating the final version with the Senate.

Washington, D.C.

Another carbon fee is brewing in the country’s capital. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh is expected to introduce a bill in July. Her initial proposal outlined in May calls for a $10 fee per metric ton on carbon pollution that would increase to $100 per ton by 2038.

Some environmental advocates say that Cheh’s proposal doesn’t go far enough toward meeting the city’s climate goals. A coalition called Put A Price on It D.C. put forth an alternate plan that starts at $20 per ton and increases to $150 by 2032. The group also argues for a rebate program that would return the majority of the revenue to D.C. residents.

We’ll wait and see if Cheh takes their advice. With D.C.’s overwhelmingly progressive city council, DeMarco says a carbon fee proposal would have a decent chance of passing.

Washington state

After a carbon tax fizzled out in the Washington legislature in March, the state is getting another chance. If Initiative 1631 gathers 260,000 signatures, voters will be deciding on the so-called “fee on pollution” this November.

The ballot measure calls for a $15 charge on each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in Washington starting in 2020, with the price rising $2 each year until the state meets its climate goals. The money raised would go toward investing in clean energy, protecting natural resources, and helping communities prepare for wildfires and sea-level rise.

Washington isn’t the only state that’s trying to pass a carbon price after recent failures. DeMarco says that Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and Utah are all places to watch in 2019. New Jersey is a likely newcomer to the carbon pricing game next year, too.

The ultimate goal for environmental advocates, though, is a national carbon price. Flannery Winchester, communications coordinator at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, says that these state-level carbon proposals are putting pressure on Congress come up with a countrywide solution. After all, a patchwork system that charges different prices for carbon across the country could be logistically challenging for businesses.

“Whatever roadblocks come up,” she says, “the big value is that they’re all really loud signals to Congress to move on a national carbon price.”


Here are the carbon pricing battles to watch right now

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Can Oakland still stop the coal trains?

When a federal judge struck down Oakland’s ban on coal shipments this week, it represented a setback for environmental advocates. Nearly two years ago, the local city council had voted unanimously to keep coal out of a proposed redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base — pushing the argument over the dirty fuel source into the courts.

A quick survey of advocates in the wake of the new ruling indicates it is not a crippling loss. That’s because the proposed port to ship coal out of Oakland hasn’t been built yet, and the people who want to stop it have several more cards to play.

“It doesn’t mean we are going to have coal trains going through Oakland,” says Erica Maharg, managing attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper.

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Margaret Gordon founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, says that the port still faces a high hurdle in the form of mitigations for pollution from the new facility. If approved, the port would be built in West Oakland, a historically polluted, and historically African American, neighborhood. And those mitigations — Gordon would like to require zero-emission technology on all the equipment at the port and all the trucks and trains serving it — could be economically prohibitive.

“We knew we were going to have to have more mitigations, win, lose, or draw,” Gordon says.

On the other side, a representative for Phil Tagami, the port developer, says his client was “still digesting the decision and had no comment at this time.”

The current case was really about a contract between Tagami and Oakland. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria explained that the city made a deal with Tagami that it would not add any new regulations on port operations unless those new regulations were required to prevent a “substantial danger” to the people of Oakland. And, in his assessment, Oakland just didn’t offer the evidence to show that a coal ban was required to protect its residents.

Chhabria was scathing in his appraisal of the evidence Oakland presented: It was, he wrote, “riddled with inaccuracies, major evidentiary gaps, erroneous assumptions, and faulty analyses, to the point that no reliable conclusion about health or safety dangers could be drawn from it.”

That assessment came as a surprise to Earthjustice staff attorney Colin O’Brien, who worked on the case. “The science has long been unequivocal that fine particulate matter is harmful to human health,” he says. “I’m not sure that level of proof should be required of the city.”

Interestingly, San Francisco Baykeeper’s Maharg points out that Chhabria also explicitly opened the door to a defense of the coal ban with better evidence. The judge wrote that there may be sufficient evidence to prove that a coal port really is a health hazard, but the coal-ban advocates simply hadn’t presented it in court.

The coal-ban proponents could appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court, but they haven’t decided yet if they will do that. They have other options, and this ruling — which focuses narrowly on whether Oakland violated a contract — may not be the right hill to die on.

“In the big picture,” O’Brien says, “I’m not sure how much this decision matters.”

In that big picture, the West Coast is quickly turning into a coal blockade. As Jeremy Sussman, an analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities, told Bloomberg, “Most realists have come to the conclusion that West Coast states such as California, Washington, and Oregon simply aren’t going to allow a lot of coal exports now or in the future.”

This decision knocks a chink in that blockade, but it does nothing to change the political will that created it in the first place.

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Can Oakland still stop the coal trains?

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The Northeast is chugging right along on climate change action.

Rick Scott, who has served as Florida’s governor since 2011, hasn’t done much to protect his state against the effects of climate change — even though it’s being threatened by sea-level rise.

On Monday, eight youth filed a lawsuit against Scott, a slew of state agencies, and the state of Florida itself. The kids, ages 10 to 19, are trying to get their elected officials to recognize the threat climate change poses to their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

18-year-old Delaney Reynolds, a member of this year’s Grist 50 list, helped launch the lawsuit. She’s been a climate activist since the age of 14, when she started a youth-oriented activism nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project. “No matter how young you are, even if you don’t have a vote, you have a voice in your government,” she says.

Reynolds and the other seven plaintiffs are asking for a “court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan” — one that transitions Florida away from a fossil fuel energy system.

This lawsuit is the latest in a wave of youth-led legal actions across the United States. Juliana v. United States, which was filed by 21 young plaintiffs in Oregon in 2015, just got confirmed for a trial date in October this year.

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The Northeast is chugging right along on climate change action.

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