Georgetown Law honors EPA climate rules architect

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lisa Heinzerling, a key architect of U.S. EPA’s climate change regulations, has been selected for a Georgetown University Law School professorship named for former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr.

A former clerk for Brennan, Heinzerling is well-known for helping to lay the legal foundation for EPA’s bid to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.

She authored Supreme Court briefs challenging the decision by George W. Bush’s EPA that heat-trapping emissions did not endanger human health. Her work contributed to the high court’s landmark 2007 decision on Massachusetts v. EPA, which paved the way for regulations after President Obama took office.

“Lisa shaped the legal strategy that convinced the Supreme Court first to hear the Massachusetts climate change case, and then to rule in our favor,” David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council recalled in an email.

Heinzerling took a leave of absence from her Georgetown teaching career in 2008 to join Obama’s transition team and then went to EPA, where she had a hand in crafting the endangerment finding that underpins the agency’s carbon dioxide rules for automobiles and stationary sources, including forthcoming rules for new and existing power plants.

Dina Kruger, a former senior official at the EPA air office who worked on the document, said that Heinzerling used her decade of environmental law experience to help EPA staff write an endangerment finding that would be legally unassailable.

“We knew that it was going to be under assault, and it was from the very beginning,” said Kruger, now in private practice. “She helped us to make it a strong decision that has withstood legal attack.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous decision last June dismissing an industry challenge of the finding.

Heinzerling returned to Georgetown in 2010. In a statement released today by the law school, she says she is “deeply honored” to receive a chair given in Brennan’s name. The law school says she will continue to work on environmental and regulatory law.