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President George W. Bush talks with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman in 2002. Credit: Stephen Jaffe/AFP via Getty Images One of the most important environmental lawsuits in history began in a rocking chair in Joe Mendelson’s nursery, as his daughters, 1 and 3 years old, drifted off to sleep. This was long before Mendelson became senior counsel for Tesla, back during the Clinton administration. "Raising them as little children, I would sometimes be in their bedroom in a rocking chair either trying to put them to bed and sit with them and kind of read over legal work, including this petition," says Mendelson. "So it’s, in some ways, the third child that was born at the time." Mendelson worked for a D.C.-based environmental non-profit called the International Center for Technology Assessment, and he wanted to force the Environmental Protection Agency to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, something Congress had never foreseen when it passed the statute in 1970. It was an enormous ask, and the stakes were huge: he wanted the executive branch to go around an intransigent Congress to do something about climate change. Now, 20 years later, a coalition of states […]

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