The continuing failure of the federal government to respond to the growing threat of climate change, despite affirmative duties to do so, creates a governance vacuum that the Constitution might help fill, if such a responsibility could be found within the document. This Article explores textual and non-textual constitutional support for that responsibility, finding that no single provision of the Constitution is a perfect fit for that responsibility.
In 2017, multiple claims and declarations from around the legal world appeared to signal a tipping point in the global acceptance of a new and evolving legal status for nature. Whether it was litigation in the United States, India, and Colombia, or legislation emanating from New Zealand and Australia, the law seems to be grappling with a new normative order in relation to the legal status of nature. However, this shift has been a long time coming, being at least forty- five years since Christopher Stone famously asked whether trees should have legal standing.
With the full participation and consent of Congress, President Trump has embarked upon a radical project to freeze and roll back federal regulations that protect public health, safety, the environment, and the economy. The principal justification for this project, publicly announced by both Congress and President Trump, is the claim that regulations are costing the American economy $2 trillion per year, thereby destroying jobs. This claim derives from two studies that have received wide and credulous circulation in the media, on Capitol Hill, and in the White House.
President Trump issued a proclamation in December 2017 purporting to remove two million acres in southern Utah from national monument status, radically shrinking the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and splitting the Bears Ears National Monument into two residual protected areas. Whether the President has the power to revise or revoke existing monuments under the Antiquities Act, which creates the national monument system, is a new question of law for a 112-year-old statute that has been used by Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama to protect roughly fifteen million acres of federal land and hundreds of millions of marine acres.