Election and Supreme Court Fight Will Decide Trump’s Environmental Legacy

President Trump has selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

He has initiated the most aggressive environmental deregulation agenda in modern history, but as his first term drives to a close, many of his policies are being cut down by the courts — even by Republican-appointed jurists who the administration had hoped would be friendly.

Since January courts have dealt a series of blows to the Trump administration’s plans to ramp up fossil fuel development and undo decades of environmental protections. This month, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked implementation of a major rollback of methane emissions standards for the oil and gas industry while it considers permanent action. That followed decisions by judges that have thrown the future of the Dakota Access Pipelineinto doubt, struck down the relaxation of protections for migratory birdsand vacated the rollback of an Obama-era rule to reduce waste from natural gas flaring on federal lands.

Courts have yet to rule on Mr. Trump’s biggest rollbacks of clean water rules, curbs to greenhouse gas emissions in automobilesand power plants,and environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. But activists and Democratic attorneys general expressed confidence that judges would find the unwinding of even those environmental protections illegal, despite the work that went into them.

Early in the administration, a number of courts ruled that agencies acted illegally by providing little or no justification when they rewrote, weakened or repealed regulation.

Now courts are increasingly telling the E.P.A. and Interior Department that their legal, scientific and economic analyses upholding rollbacks directly violate underlying laws.

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