Climate-change activists and advocates seldom have trouble finding villains. But recently, they've found a new one in a strange place: famed legal scholar and Obama mentor Laurence Tribe, in his office at Harvard Law School.
Tribe has been the highest-profile legal scholar to criticize the Obama administration's rules for carbon-dioxide emissions from coal plants, which were formally proposed in June 2014. (He's one of the few law professors who is frequently and plausibly referred to as an "icon.") In a formal comment submitted to the EPA, a Wall Street Journal column, a House energy committee hearing last week, and other venues, Tribe has argued against the rule, suggesting both that it runs contrary to the relevant statute and that it violates the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The legal argument here is complicated—more on that later—but Tribe's entrance has delighted conservatives like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly cited him, and infuriated liberals who expect Tribe to be on their team. After all, this is Larry Tribe, lion of liberal constitutional law, and Al Gore's lawyer in Bush v. Gore! Larry Tribe, who famously taught Barack Obama in law school and employed him as a research assistant! Larry Tribe, who worked for Obama's Justice Department during his first term, offers Obama unvarnished advice on Supreme Court picks, and just last fall said he thought Obama himself would make an excellent justice! Larry Tribe, who is fond of pointing out that he taught the nation's first environmental-law class!