Presidential Power to Address Climate Change in an Era of Legislative Gridlock
Virginia Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 32, 2014, p. 134
24 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
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
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