Presidential Power to Address Climate Change in an Era of Legislative Gridlock

Virginia Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 32, 2014, p. 134

U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-35

24 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2014

See all articles by Robert V. Percival

Robert V. Percival

University of Maryland - Francis King Carey School of Law

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

During the 1970s, Congress’s adoption of landmark environmental laws promised the public comprehensive protection against threats to public health and the environment. These laws were updated and refined by Congress during the decade of the 1980s. However, since the adoption of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, legislative gridlock has largely removed Congress from shaping environmental policy by legislative action. After he failed to persuade Congress to adopt new climate change legislation, President Obama unveiled his own Climate Action Plan that relies largely on executive action. Bolstered by the Supreme Court’s decision upholding EPA’s ability to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Clean Air Act, President Obama has directed EPA to issue regulations controlling the most significant sources of GHG emissions. He also has pledged to take wide-ranging actions to reduce the carbon footprint of the executive branch and to promote more efficient use of energy in the private sector.

Some of President Obama’s actions have spawned harsh criticism he has overstepped his constitutional authority by acting in the absence of new legislative authority. After reviewing the history of the use of presidential power to protect the environment, this article concludes that the president is simply performing his historic role of using his constitutional authority to act when Congress fails to address important problems that threaten the nation.

Keywords: Clean Air Act, greenhouse gas emissions

Suggested Citation

Percival, Robert V., Presidential Power to Address Climate Change in an Era of Legislative Gridlock (2014). Virginia Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 32, 2014, p. 134; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2469993

Robert V. Percival (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

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