Laurence Tribe exits lawsuit, says he regrets his rhetoric

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2018

Legal heavyweight Laurence Tribe is bowing out of the litigation over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The Harvard University professor today filed paperwork notifying the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit of his withdrawal.

Tribe made waves in environmental law circles for his legal critiques of the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to address climate change. A former mentor to Obama at Harvard University, Tribe represented coal company Peabody Energy Corp. in the litigation attacking the 2015 rule in the D.C. Circuit.

He argued on behalf of the company, one of the world’s largest coal producers, that the Obama EPA had overstepped its constitutional bounds in issuing the Clean Power Plan because it gave states no choice but to participate in the program.

Tribe did not respond to a request today for the reasoning behind his withdrawal from the litigation, which is on hold in the D.C. Circuit. But in recent days, he has taken to Twitter to express concern about the Trump administration’s plans for the Obama climate rule.

Yesterday, EPA formally rolled out a proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan — which envisioned cuts to carbon dioxide emissions across the power sector — with a version that focuses on efficiency improvements at individual coal-fired power plants (Greenwire, Aug. 21).

“I opposed the way the Obama Clean Power Plan exceeded EPA’s delegated authority but strongly favored what Obama was trying to do about global warming,” Tribe tweeted on Aug. 19. “What Trump is trying to do with power plants, in contrast, is indefensible. There is no Planet B.

“Not only are Trump’s environmental policy goals indefensible; his disregard of legal requirements for regulatory change is staggering,” Tribe continued.

He also said he’s sorry that he accused Obama of “burning the Constitution” in 2015 remarks at a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the Clean Power Plan (Greenwire, March 17, 2015).

“I regret that rhetoric,” Tribe said in response to another Twitter user’s question about that comment.

Two other attorneys who represented Peabody in the Clean Power Plan lawsuit, Tristan Duncan and Thomas Grever, also withdrew today.