How to Participate in Lawyers Climate Week

Over the course of the past five weeks, we have introduced you to the different daily themes being held for Lawyers Climate Week.  Starting on Monday 9/23, you will receive a daily email that you can share with your colleagues.  We invite you and encourage you to participate in programs and call to action.

Monday, 9/23: Meatless Monday
Learn more Meatless Monday facts in our next blast and Pledge to go Meatless Mondays.  Call to the Bar and our many partner law firms and organizations are taking the pledge to go Meatless on Mondays.  Make it a year around program in your cafeteria and catering.

Tuesday, 9/24: Law Firm Action Tuesday
Learn more about the Law Firm Sustainability Network and in our Tuesday blast, adopt the LFSN’s quick and easy sustainability tips to make your organization more sustainable. Already an LFSN member?  Take action by submitting your ALISS law firm sustainability assessment.Wednesday, 9/25: Legal Pathways Webinar Wednesday
On Wednesday, join the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization webinar and learn how you and your organization can participate in this unique pro bono project in which lawyers draft model legislation to implement recommendations from the book.Thursday, 9/26:  ESGs & SDGs Sustainability Webinar Thursday 

On Thursday, join our webinar to learn why capital markets are focused on how companies integrate ESG factors and SDGS into business management.  Incorporate them in your organization’s mission and in your practice.  

Friday, 9/27: Lawyers for Climate Action Now
On Friday, we’ll share more on the call to action to contact your representatives in government.  Sign and send the letter or send your own on the call for climate action now.

You have your checklist for next week, tell us how you plan to participate.

Lawyers Urge Candidate Debate on Climate Change

The next President will preside over the pivotal period for climate policy and will either make it the main priority for his or her administration or consign future generations to dire health and economic consequences that no later policy can meaningfully address. Proper regard for the future of the planet on which human life depends and for the democratic process requires that the candidates be given an opportunity to discuss their thoughts on the existential problem of climate change and what can be done about it.

For this reason, a group of lawyers and non-lawyers acting as A Call to the Bar: Lawyers for Common Sense on Climate Change has delivered the attached letter to the Democratic National Committee urging it to hold a debate on climate change. A similar request will be made to the Republican National Committee if a contested primary is held.

If you wish to join in this call for a climate discussion and debate please send a note to the Democratic National Committee at or send your own letter with an endorsed copy of this letter.

Thank you for taking action on climate change.


Can Law Save Us From Climate Change?

On April 18, 2019, a group of leading lawyers and law professors will convene in person at locations across the United States to discuss the problem of climate change and the role of lawyers in advancing solutions. The locations will all be linked by live video/audio feeds. This is the third year in a row for this national conference on this important subject. This year’s conference will feature leading experts addressing the most important aspects of the climate crisis from a legal perspective. The conference will also address ways in which lawyers can work to make a difference on this subject of grave concern to our well-being and future.

Speakers include:

Washington Governor and Presidential Candidate, Jay Inslee
U.S. Senator Ed Markey
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch
Noted climate scientist Prof. Michael Mann (keynote speaker)

For the complete list of speakers, go to

Topics include:

The Green New Deal
Carbon Pricing as a Key Solution
Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization
Voluntary/Market-based Decarbonization Initiatives
How Can You Take Action on the Climate Crisis
Environmental Justice
100% Clean Energy Future


April 18, 2019; 11:00 am – 6:00 pm EDT


You can join online. Or you can join other participants at one of the conference locations

Conference locations:

Washington, D.C
Orlando, FL
Chicago, IL
Philadelphia, PA
Raleigh, NC
Eugene, OR
Portland, OR
Albuquerque, NM
New York, NY

You can host a location in your city. All locations will be joined by live video/audio feed.

The event will be open to the public in person and over the Internet for free.

Register now at

Learn more:

For more information, go to

Help promote the Conference by posting and tweeting this post. Use the hashags #calltothebar #climatelaw #climatelawyers

Justice Scalia’s Last Important Vote

Justice Antonin Scalia died on Saturday. In 1987, when I was a second year law student, he visited Villanova Law School as the Supreme Court’s newest and youngest justice. He gave a lecture about the Constitution. His main point, as I recall, was that the structure of government under the Constitution is more important than the Bill of Rights as a safeguard of democracy. I was studying constitutional law that semester and was thrilled at the chance to listen to a Supreme Court justice. He even answered a question from me.

I appreciated his thoughts on that occasion, but as I watched him over the years since I frequently disagreed with him on important cases and I particularly disagreed with the harshness of the language he directed at his colleagues in some of them. These are professional and political differences, not personal ones. I did not know him personally. His family, friends, colleagues, and admirers are sad. I sympathize with them. He was a dedicated and passionate public servant at the highest level for many years. He was outspoken, influential, and interesting to watch and read. We note his passing with respect and dignity, but that does not mean that we cannot comment on and criticize his work as a jurist.

Justice Scalia saved one of his most important votes as a justice for almost last. On February 9, 2016, four days before he died, Justice Scalia voted with the majority on a request for a stay in five identical cases brought by a number of states and energy companies challenging the legality of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The CPP is the Obama Administration’s regulatory initiative to curtail emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary driver of climate change. The EPA formally promulgated the CPP in October 2015. Right away the challengers filed a lawsuit in the federal circuit court of appeals for the District of Columbia. They asked the DC Circuit to declare the CPP illegal and to stay its effect while the case is pending. The circuit court set a date in June 2016 for oral argument on the merits of case and denied the request for a stay. The challengers appealed the denial of the stay to the Supreme Court. Most lawyers following the case thought the appeal of the stay request to the Supreme Court stood little chance of success, as the Court had never before stayed a federal regulation while considering a challenge to it.

To the surprise of all, a five-justice majority of the Court issued an order staying the CPP until the DC Circuit decides the case and the Supreme Court denies any request for an appeal to it or until it decides the case on the merits. As a practical matter, that means the five justices decided to stay the CPP until they got a chance to hear and rule on the ultimate legality of the CPP, which will not be until 2017 at the earliest.

A concerned citizen might ask why the majority decided to stay the CPP, and the answer is we don’t know, because the majority didn’t say why. The Court issued a one-page order that offers no explanation for the decision.

This brings us back to Justice Scalia, who was one of the five justices in the majority, along with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. These are the five justices appointed by Republican presidents, also known as the conservative wing of the Court.

Justice Scalia was widely credited as the intellectual leader of the conservative wing who led the backlash against the supposed excesses of liberal justices like Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan. Justice Scalia held himself out as the very antithesis of an activist justice, one who deferred to the democratically elected branches of government. As he wrote in dissent in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges (the marriage equality case), “[a] system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

If that’s true, then it’s doubly true when the justices make an unprecedented decision on an important subject without offering a reason. The hallmark of accountability is explanation. Parents can make decisions for their children and offer no reason other than “because I say so.” Dictators can do that too. It doesn’t work in a democracy, and particularly not for an administrative body or a court. It’s called being “arbitrary and capricious” and it’s clear grounds for reversal.

But that’s what the five justices did last week, except that they cannot be reversed because there is no higher court. Their decision to stay the CPP is problematic, some might say appalling, from a legal policy perspective, particularly when we consider the background and importance of the CPP.

  • The CPP is the first serious effort by the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) such as carbon dioxide. Leading scientific organizations like the National Academy of Sciences have repeatedly warned that the world faces catastrophic consequences unless GGEs are substantially reduced soon.
  • The Supreme Court itself recognized the problem of climate change in the 2007 decision of Massachusetts v. EPA, in which five justices (not including Justice Scalia) held that the EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide.
  • In response to the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision, the EPA began the rulemaking for the CPP. In 2009, the EPA determined that GGEs threaten Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. The federal appeals courts in Washington upheld that determination and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
  • In 2011, the Supreme Court by a six justice majority (including Justice Scalia) decided in American Electric Power Company, Inc. v. Connecticut that the grant of authority to the EPA to address climate change by regulating GGEs displaces federal common law of interstate nuisance and state tort law on the subject.

These decisions recognize the EPA’s clear legal authority for the CPP, which is not a radical approach to combatting climate change. It calls upon the states to develop and implement plans that ensure the power plants in their state achieve 30% carbon dioxide emission reductions between 2022 and 2030. The states are given great flexibility in developing and implementing plans.

The CPP requires each state to submit their final plan by September 6, 2016, or to submit an initial plan with a request for an extension by that date, in which case the date for submission of the final plan is extended to September 6, 2018. The stay order issued last week disrupts these deadlines.

Several states notably California have announced that they will go forward with their efforts to comply with the CPP despite the stay from the Supreme Court. But the challenger states (27 at last count) have been given a reprieve. The stay threatens their ability to comply with the CPP deadlines, including the ultimate 2030 deadline even if the Court eventually upholds the CPP.

In other words, the stay has major substantive implications. It also threatens the international climate change accord reached in Paris in December 2015, as it calls into question the United States’ ability to carry through on its pledge to reduce GGEs, which induced other nations (like China and India) to join the accord.

Climate change is an urgent problem that has been calling out for a solution for many years. It’s hard to fathom how five justices could have decided that putting the CPP on hold for at least a year was the right thing to do. Even more difficult to understand is how they could have thought that they had a proper basis in law to stay the CPP without any precedent or explanation. It’s impossible to reconcile the majority’s decision to stay the CPP with the concept of judicial deference to the other branches of government. Worse, the decision implies disagreement with the EPA on the urgency of the climate change problem. That puts the Court on the wrong side of science and history.

This year 2016 we will watch important political events: a presidential election and Senate hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. No doubt there will be much discussion about the proper role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional democracy. As we listen to and participate in this discussion, let’s be sure to remember and point out that we cannot afford a judicial philosophy that permitted five unelected lawyers to impose their will on the country and the world without so much as a word of explanation. That’s clearly not how our constitutional democracy should work.


– Stephen G. Harvey


Why Every Lawyer Should Care About Climate Change

On November 20, 2015, the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania Bar Association will consider a resolution calling for government to acknowledge and act on the urgent problem of climate change caused by human activity. As a supporter of the resolution, I have been asked “why is this an issue for lawyers and the bar association?”

In my view it comes down to a question of justice, as the undeniable effects of climate change will include disruption of the life, liberty, and property of people in our country and throughout the world. Solutions are available. They need to be debated, adopted, and expressed in law. But social, political, and economic forces prevent many elected officials from even acknowledging the problem, much less pursuing solutions.

As a community of lawyers, one of our primary concerns should be furtherance of justice. Faced with one of the greatest challenges our society has ever faced, it is right that lawyers should speak out in favor of solutions through law. This falls squarely within PBA’s mission: the advancement of jurisprudence, promotion of justice, protection of the disadvantaged, and advancement of proper legislation.

In June of 1963, President John F. Kennedy convened 244 leading lawyers from throughout the United States, including leaders from the state bars and the American Bar Association, to a meeting at the White House where he asked for their support on civil rights through law.

Days before that meeting, the President gave one of the most important speeches of his life, calling on “every American” to “stop and examine [their] conscience” on the subject of racial justice.

The need for action on civil rights in the summer of 1963 was undeniable. As President Kennedy recognized, “events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.”

The need for action on climate change is now undeniable. Just as the support of the legal community was needed in 1963 on civil rights, so too is it now needed on climate change.


Steve Harvey

President, A Call to the Bar: Lawyers for Common Sense for Climate Change



This is an excerpt of an article that was originally published in the October 2015 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Environmental & Energy Law Section Newsletter. Click here to read the full newsletter, including the full resolution and full article (located on page 6)

Hats Off to These House Republicans for Critical Support on Climate Change Action

These courageous and principled Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently signed onto a resolution (the “Gibson Resolution”) that Congress should address the problem of climate change.

Rep. Chris Gibson (Hudson Valley and the Catskills regions)

Rep. Ryan Costello (suburban Philadelphia)

Rep. Carlos Curbello (south of Miami)

Rep. Bob Dold (suburban Chicago)

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (suburban Philadelphia)

Rep. Richard Hanna (Central New York)

Rep. Patrick Meehan (suburban Philadelphia)

Rep. David Reichert (rural Washington)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Miami-Dade County)

Rep. Elise Stefanik (Adirondack Mountains and the Thousand Islands region)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (South Jersey)

The Gibson Resolution states as follows:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.

The full text of the Gibson Resolution can be found here:

At a time when partisan politics seems to prevent progress on any of a number of important problems, it is refreshing to see that some of our elected officials can rise above the fray and put their constituents and their country first.

Please show your support and appreciation by calling any one or all of their offices to thank them for taking a stand on the very real and urgent problem of climate change. If you know one of their constituents, ask that person to call and thank them too.

It’s easy to call any one or all of them by using this link.

They all deserve our thanks! We support a non-partisan solution to climate change.

Courts Should Uphold the Clean Power Plan

On the first Monday in this sweltering month of August 2015, which is on track to surpass 2014 as the hottest year on record, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a groundbreaking new set of safeguards designed to fight climate change and protect public health. The new standards, known as the Clean Power Plan, set limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It’s the first effort by the United States to tackle one of its, and the world’s, biggest problems. As we approach the international meeting on climate change in Paris this coming December, the Plan provides the nation with credible moral high ground as we urge other big nations with carbon pollution issues, like China and India, to take their own substantial steps toward reducing pollution.

The Clean Power Plan is a huge step in the right direction. By providing every state with the opportunity to develop individualized plans to reduce carbon pollution, the Plan calls on every state to act on climate change. The limits are ambitious but achievable: the Plan calls for a 32 percent reduction of carbon pollution from by 2030 from power plants, which make up the largest single source of carbon pollution in the country.

The Clean Power Plan is long overdue. The scientific community has long and repeatedly warned that carbon pollution and climate change are causing the planet to warm. The thought that we may face runaway climate change in our lifetimes, or those of our children, horrifies many. Common sense safeguards to protect us from harm makes sense. And we don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. Our economy can thrive as new technologies are developed and implemented to meet our energy needs.

Some people don’t see it this way. They oppose the Clean Power Plan and any effort to fight climate change because they believe that polluter profits are more important than the economic and health benefits of cleaner air and cleaner energy.

That is why 15 state attorneys general, led by the attorney general of West Virginia, have asked a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. to put the Clean Power Plan on hold while they bring a lawsuit to block it entirely. In support of their position, the attorneys general argue that their states will suffer “irreparable harm” if the court does not put the plan on hold.

The harm they claim is that their states will expend resources planning how to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. What about the harm to the rest of us from climate change, such as flooding, droughts, and extreme weather events? This is already occurring, and the impacts of climate change will only grow more severe if we fail to act. This isn’t a close call. The harm to society far outweighs any harm to these states. The court should reject the request to put the Plan on hold.

The court should also reject the argument that the EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act. Twice since 2005 the Supreme Court has held that the EPA has the authority and the obligation to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Justice Kennedy, the swing vote in many important cases, has been in the majority in both of the decisions. The legality of the Clean Power Plan will surely end up in the Supreme Court. Given the important societal interest in fighting climate change, the Supreme Court’s prior precedent, and the judicial deference owed to the EPA as the agency charged with administering the Act, the Plan stands a good chance of surviving judicial scrutiny.

The coal industry and its supporters have declared war on the Clean Power Plan, because it threatens their investment, and they care about profits. They don’t care about our children.

For the sake of our children, we need to tackle climate change. The Clean Power Plan is an important step in the right direction that deserves the support of all citizens. It should be upheld by the courts.

Why You Should (and How You Can) Show Your Support for Obama’s Clean Power Plan on July 30



The Facts

Are you aware of the facts on climate change? Let’s check. Do you think that climate change is (a) real, (b) caused by human use of fossil fuels, and (c) likely to get much worse in coming decades unless brought under control by strong measures?

If you answered “yes” to all three parts, then you are a citizen with an accurate assessment of the facts. Your view is shared by the overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate change.

But what are the strong measures that can get climate change under control? There is wide agreement on that issue too: the number one thing we must do is reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). We are at an all-time-in-human-existence high for CO2 in the atmosphere and that is what is causing the temperature to rise around the globe.

The government of the United States of America is taking strong measure on climate change. By executive order of the President and under the authority granted by Congress in the Clean Air Act, as recognized by the Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adopting carbon pollution standards for existing for existing power plants that will protect the health of our children and put our nation on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030. The carbon pollution standards for existing power plants are known as the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan is a very important and good step toward protecting the planet for ourselves and our children. The EPA is expected to issue the final regulations for the clean power plan early next week, as the New York Times reported today.

Most of the people who control the world’s fossil fuel supply don’t want to reduce CO2 emissions, despite the harm that it being caused, because they make money from fossil fuel usage. They have already paid an army of lawyers, lobbyists, and media specialists to fight the Clean Power Plan in the courts and in the much more important court of public opinion.

It’s critically important that informed citizens speak out and voice their support for the Clean Power Plan. Other measures will definitely be needed, including a congressionally-mandated carbon pricing policy, but the Clean Power Plan is a huge step in the right direction.

Thinking people of conscience agree that strong measures are needed and there is no sound reason why the government of the USA should not implement the Clean Power Plan.

How You Can Show Your Support

On July 30th, there is a campaign for people around the country to show their support for the Clean Power Plan. Numerous environmental organizations are supporting the July 30th Call for Action. You can show your support by doing three things that are easy to do.

First, call you Senators and tell the person who answers the phone who you are and that you would like to leave the message that you support the Clean Power Plan. To find your Senators’ phone numbers, check out this page.

Second, spread the word on social media that you support the Clean Power Plan for all of the reasons explained on the EPA website. Be sure and use these hash tags: #MakeTheCall and #ActOnClimate. You could also send a message through the Environmental Defense Fund.

Third, talk it up with your friends and family.

If for whatever reason you cannot takes these steps on July 30, do them whenever you can. If we all keep doing this we can convince our government to get climate change under control.

Carpe Diem.


Philadelphia Eagles Lead All Leagues in Sustainability

Several of our volunteers and supporters recently toured Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Eagles, and learned why the Birds are #1 in sustainability.

As explained to us by tour guide Norman Vossschulte, who serves as Director of Fan Experience, the Eagles are the greenest team in all of American sports. Check out these facts:

  • 100% of the Eagles’ operations are powered by the sun and wind. A total of more than 11,000 solar panels on the roof, over some of the parking spots, and on the front of the building provide 30% of the energy. The rest comes from the purchase of renewable energy credits.
  • Through continuous efforts in recycling and composting, the Eagles have sent no waste to landfills in over two years.
  • A team of 80 people work on game days sorting every bag of trash. With the audio piped into the sorting room, the sorters cheer for their team as they work.
  • The Eagles use no chemicals to clean the stadium, but rely entirely on a water and electrolyte solution that is generated on site and recycled.
  • The Eagles offer beer in aluminum cans with no plastic cups offered, and they recycle the cans, crush them, and sell the aluminum in bulk.



The Eagles are on the cutting edge of sustainability for American sports teams. As owner Jeffrey Lurie told the New York Times in 2010, “[w]e’ve read a lot that excellent environmental practices are too expensive or not wise for a company. We challenged that.” Major credit goes to Mr. Lurie and his co-owner, Christina Weiss Lurie.

We thank the Eagles for the awesome tour. In addition to all the green stuff, the tour of lockers rooms was pretty cool. Special thanks to Pennsylvania Businesses for a Healthy Climate, which organized the tour.

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American Court Issues Important Climate Change Decision

Earlier this week, we reported on an important ruling by a Dutch trial court. On June 24 The Hague District Court ruled that the Dutch government must ensure that Dutch greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25% lower than those in 1990. The ruling is important not just because it requires a substantial and quick reduction in Dutch ghg emissions, but also because it could be used to persuade courts in other countries to follow suit.

Media coverage of the Dutch ruling almost completely overshadowed a June 23 decision of potentially equal import issued by an American court in Seattle, Washington.

The Seattle decision requires the Washington Department of Ecology to reconsider its denial of a petition by eight youths who asked the Department to adopt rules that would help restore global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million (ppm). Until 1950, carbon dioxide levels had not exceeded 300 ppm in the last 650,000 years, but they exceeded 400 ppm in 2013, and are still rising.


Background on the Seattle Decision

In April 2014, Washington Governor Jay Inslee directed the Department to report on recommended updates to Washington State’s current ghg emissions limits and to do so by July 15, 2014. In anticipation of the Department’s report, the youth petitioners filed a petition for rulemaking. In it, they requested that the Department promulgate a rule to “implement science-based emissions limits to put Washington on the global climate stabilization trajectory … [and] protect the integrity of Washington’s and the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and climate systems.”

The Department failed to meet the July 2014 deadline. Then in August 2014 it denied the youths’ petition “without challenging the underlying scientific basis for Petitioners’ plea,” as the court noted.

In December 2014, the Department finally issued the report required by Governor Inslee. The Department’s report took note of the reality and urgency of human-caused climate change and of the danger of postponing decisive action by even a few years. Nonetheless, the tardy report recommended “that no changes be made to the state’s statutory emission limits at this time.”

Meanwhile, the youth petitioners had already appealed the denial of their petition to the King County Superior Court in Seattle. They argued in their opening brief that the Department “has statutory and constitutional responsibilities to protect Youth Petitioners’ fundamental inalienable rights to a healthful and pleasant environment and essential natural resources including air and water.” For their legal authority, the youths relied primarily on the Public Trust Doctrine embodied in the Washington Constitution.

Superior Court Judge Hollis R. Hill accepted the argument made by the youths, and remanded the youths’ petition for reconsideration in light of the findings in the Department’s December 2014 report as well as a declaration the youths submitted from a noted climate scientist. Judge Hill also ordered the Department to advise her by July 8, 2015, whether it intends to affirm or deny its decision denying the youth’s petition.


Help from Our Children’s Trust

The youth petitioners received assistance from Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit organization that describes itself as “a game-changing, youth-driven, global climate recovery campaign, securing the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate.” It “supports youth in bringing legal action in courts, administrative agencies and local legislative bodies to enforce the Public Trust duty of government to protect natural resources, including the atmosphere, for the benefit of all present and future generations.”

A key supporter of Our Children’s Trust is noted climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.


Importance of the Decision

The importance of this decision cannot be overstated. In its 2011 decision in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit seeking abatement of carbon dioxide emissions based on a federal common law theory, thereby dampening hopes for any litigation strategy in federal court to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. The Seattle decision suggests that state courts could be the key to any future efforts in the United States to bring about climate change solutions through the judicial system. 


–This article was contributed by Paul R. Kennedy, a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts.


Photo Credit: artzenter /