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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

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Editorial: Don't mess with Texas' big cranes; Leadership needed to spearhead protection of the state's environment and wildlife. (Houston Chronicle, 07/11/14)
"The extinction scenario for the most famous avian residents of the Texas coast is not farfetched. And anyone who has marveled at the majesty of the 5-foot-tall birds foraging for blue crabs in their wintering grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport has to be saddened by the June 30 ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel said that U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack abused discretion in finding that 23 cranes had died because of a disruption to their habitat."

EDITORIAL: The Environmental Protection Agency is swimming in murky water [Print: Clear rules for clean water; Some in Congress would rather undermine the EPA than update regulations] (Washington Post, 07/09/14)
"LAWMAKERS, MOSTLY but not only Republicans , are seeking to undermine the twin foundations of Environmental Protection Agency authority: the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act . In both cases, Congress should back off. The agency badly needs clearer rules on which bodies of water it has the power to regulate. This clarification has been needed since a pair of Supreme Court rulings last decade left murky the definition of “waters of the United States,” a core Clean Water Act term.... Then again, having an unconvincing case almost certainly won’t stop lawmakers from trying to end another EPA initiative — cutting greenhouse-gas emissions."

Editorial: Don't weaken manatee protections (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 07/07/14)
"There is no justification for the federal government to downgrade the protected status of the Florida manatee. It might make it easier for irresponsible boaters and builders to abuse their privileges on the public waterways. But the move would be terrible for the species and send the wrong message about Florida's natural resources. If anything, the state and federal governments should do more to protect these habitats."

Texas’ judicial backlog is finally being addressed (Dallas Morning News, 07/02/14)
Ashley Croswell, Letter to the Editor: "It is exciting to see that the judicial vacancy crisis in Texas is beginning to be remedied. Those vacancies have created a 12,000-plus-case backlog, totaling 19 years’ worth of work not done in our federal courts. Our federal courts are often the principal protectors of our natural resources. Defenders of the environment turn to federal courts to hold accountable those that jeopardize our health and the health of our planet. Federal courts can be the last resort for environmental justice. That is why judges who enforce laws that protect the environment are indispensable."

Berms and future storms (editorial)stat (Staten Island Advance [NY] , 06/09/14)
"[N]o one thought a storm that started off as Sandy did could produce such a catastrophe around here. And with climate change, say responsible experts, we can expect more huge tempests....the process of returning former wetland areas that were foolishly developed into residential blocks in the 20th Century back to their natural state has begun."

Editorial: We can’t afford to trash our backyards (Reno Gazette-Journal [NV] , 06/05/14)
"In some ways, the Indian Ocean, like the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, too, is a big dump. Each has numerous dead zones, areas where accumulating detritus has made it impossible for them to support life ... That’s a lesson worth remembering in the coming months as we debate the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut back on the pollution that the nation’s power plants pour into the air, another seemingly infinite resource that could have a significant impact if we continue to use it as a receptacle for our trash. The good news for Nevada is that it already is ahead of the game."

EDITORIAL: A warming response; So far, public reaction seems positive (Daily Camera [CO] , 06/04/14)
"[H]ere in Colorado, voters and lawmakers alike have favored increasing renewable energy sources and requiring a reduction in emissions since before the 2005 benchmark. We're well-poised to meet and exceed the federal regulations. ... If ever there was an issue that could lower the temperature in our hyper-partisan era, it's climate change — not to mention pollution, which is pretty much universally loathed. Choose your poison: Kids with asthma, brown clouds hovering over major cities, dead fish."

Louisiana House should kill bill intended to nullify levee lawsuit against oil, gas: Editorial (Times-Picayune [LA] , 05/28/14)
"What the legislation does is severely limit which agencies can file suit and for what sort of damages....and would leave residents in greater New Orleans with no practical remedy for the increased risk of storm damage caused by coastal erosion....SB 469 would take away the rights of other local government entities to pursue "any right or cause of action arising from any activity" involving permitting under the Coastal Zone Management program and some provisions of the federal Clean Water Act and the federal Rivers and Harbors Act. ... Those residents and the levees and pumps built to protect them are threatened by the wetlands loss created by oil and gas pipelines. Why shouldn't the industry be asked to pay part of the cost to repair it?"

Editorial | Well-deserved honor for ‘Fitz’ (Courier-Journal [KY] , 05/26/14)
"Consider the Cincinnati-based federal agency with a clunky name, ORSANCO, and a big mission to keep cleaning up the Ohio River.... President Barack Obama has just appointed Tom FitzGerald.... Mr. FitzGerald, a Louisville attorney and director of the Kentucky Resources Council, has made a career out of representing people on the receiving end of pollution. He has fought fearlessly for enforcement of clean air and clean water laws, using a science-based and fact-based approach that has earned him respect from all sides. He sweats the details, poring over the arcane language of environmental laws and rules, with an eye toward justice, fairness and a cleaner world. And he can’t be fooled. Most recently, Mr. FitzGerald won an important court case that preemptively blocked the developers of the private, natural gas liquids Bluegrass Pipeline from using the power of eminent domain to buy easements in Kentucky. President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald is well-deserved national recognition. We are glad he accepted."

Editorial: Judge rightly lets environmental groups in on coal ash case (Winston-Salem Journal [NC] , 05/12/14)
"Cheers to Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway, whose ruling last week will allow environmental groups to have access to documents from Duke Energy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources relating to groundwater leaching from the company’s coal ash dumps. Ridgeway ruled that a coalition of environmental groups can participate in the state’s enforcement action against Duke Energy for the leaching, ...That’s how it should be. Good for Judge Ridgeway."

Breathing easier [Editorial] Our view: Supreme Court's support of EPA curbs on out-of-state air pollution is life-saving news for downwind states like Maryland (Baltimore Sun, 04/30/14)
"On Tuesday, the Supreme Court offered a solution. By a 6-2 vote, it reinstated the so-called "good neighbor rule," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that protect downwind states like Maryland from drifting air pollution that starts with aging coal-fired power plants but can travel hundreds of miles. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was actually developed three years ago but was subsequently suspended by the U.S. Court of Appeals, which claimed the EPA had overstepped its authority. ... The Farm Bureau's lawsuit to overturn the EPA "blueprint" or "diet" of pollution limits covering Maryland and other states in the bay watershed lost in U.S. District Court last fall but is expected to be heard on appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia this summer. Like the air pollution case, it appears driven mostly by out-of-state plaintiffs who can only see their short-term costs, not the long-term benefits of a cleaner environment."

Mercury News editorial: Feinstein bill risks further damage to Delta (San Jose Mercury News [CA] , 04/21/14)
"House Republicans are demanding that any drought legislation roll back crucial environmental protections and end the San Joaquin River restoration project. They act as if these rules are all about helping fish, but keeping the river system healthy is critical for people who rely on its water."

Editorial: Chesapeake Bay needs the EPA (Virginian-Pilot, 04/21/14)
"Attorney General Mark Herring's brief supporting Chesapeake Bay cleanup represents the kind of common sense Virginians hope to see from the state's lawyer. Yet indiscriminate railing against Washington regulation - including rules designed to clean up the long-beleaguered bay - is what Virginians customarily see from a few of their Washington lawmakers."

Editorial: Progress on Long Island Sound rebound (Newsday [NY], 04/17/14)
"Climate change has increased the water temperature slightly, which also reduces oxygen. That makes nitrogen removal all the more important"

Protecting Midwestern streams and wetlands under a proposed rule (St. Louis Post-Dispatch [MO], 04/17/14)
Karl Brooks, administrator for U.S. EPA Region 7: "For the past 15 years, two complex court decisions muddled the law and we lost a clear understanding of which waters are protected, and which aren’t. Working jointly with the Army Corps of Engineers, we’re releasing a proposed rule that clarifies which waters are protected by the law."

Editorial: OUR VIEW: What took so long? (Daily Courier [Forest City, NC], 04/17/14)
"The governor’s proposal plans to focus on increasing pond and dam safety around coal ash, protecting drinking water and groundwater quality along with the closure or conversion of the coal ash pits located around the state....The fact of the matter is the state turned a blind eye to the problems with coal ash and it wasn’t until a significant spill hit the pages of newspapers around the country that they started to take notice."

Editorial: Our view: Calling out long-distance critics (Roanoke Times [VA], 04/17/14)
"Did Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty blush when he signed onto a lawsuit suggesting that the Environmental Protection Agency is overreaching, or might one day do so, by working with states to clean up the Chesapeake Bay? It takes audacity to nitpick a project more than 3,000 miles away. And the arguments by Geraghty and other attorneys general are even more of a legal stretch....Virginia is one of six states working together to restore the bay's health by 2025 through limits on wastewater pollution and fertilizer runoff. But 21 attorneys general are challenging the bay cleanup in federal court. ...Self-appointed critics of the cleanup are "recasting cooperation as coercion," Herring writes, but as an interstate body of water, the bay needs all affected states and federal officials "working together to protect a regional and national treasure.""

Editorial | Pipeline questions need answers (Courier-Journal [KY] , 04/15/14)
"Complications appear to be growing for the Bluegrass Pipeline, ...more than 750 rivers, streams, wetlands and ponds could be affected by the construction of the pipeline,... iven the many questions and concerns about the project, thorough scrutiny is essential and that includes requiring a full-blown review of the environmental impact on Kentucky."

Editorial: Two wins for the Everglades; OUR OPINION: Protecting region’s clean water supply remains a challenge (Miami Herald, 04/15/14)
"The first decision came from U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in the Southern District of New York in a case involving regulations for “water transfer” practices throughout the country. Part of the federal Clean Water Act case involves a decade-long suit filed by environmental groups against the South Florida Water Management District’s occasional back-pumping of polluted farmwater runoff from canals into Lake Okeechobee.... Judge Karas ruled that back-pumping that jeopardizes the supply of drinking water can be construed as a violation of the Clean Water Act. That includes actions that affect Lake Okeechobee. It’s a good decision.... In all likelihood, the district, the state of Florida or even the EPA will appeal the ruling, though it would be better for everyone, taxpayers especially, if the district were to accept the decision and end the costly litigation."

Editorial: Cheers and Jeers (Daily Courier [Forest City, NC], 04/13/14)
"Jeers … to the NC Environmental Management Commission for joining Duke Energy in appealing the court ruling requiring Duke to immediately cleanup the pollution from its coal ash pits in the state. It appears the state is doing more to protect Duke Energy than to protect the environment. That's a sad state of affairs."

Editorial - Duke Energy should clean out aging, leak-prone coal-ash ponds (Wilmington Star-News [NC] , 04/11/14)
"It would be more constructive for the utility and regulators to come up with a plan that will eliminate the threat of coal-ash pollution by removing the coal ash from vulnerable locations."

EDITORIAL Our Views: Don’t limit court actions (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 04/09/14)
"We’d prefer a political answer to the coastal catastrophe in which the many parties who compromised Louisiana’s wetlands over the years help pay the billions it will cost to repair them. But without the threat of court action, what’s the incentive for powerful corporate interests to come to the negotiating table? Decades of political expedience led to the environmental disaster of Louisiana’s vanishing coastline. These bills seem like more of the same, and that’s bad news for a state so vulnerable to continuing coastal decline."

Editorial: Heed agency’s warning about coal ash toxicity (Aiken Standard [SC], 04/09/14)
"Waste from ash ponds is saturated with toxic pollutants, including arsenic and chromium, which can threaten public health.... State officials should fight to protect our natural resources and ensure they remain clean and sustainable for future generations."

Legislature shouldn't weaken levee board reforms: Editorial (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 04/09/14)
"Gov. Jindal's move to get more control over the authorities is not surprising, given how upset he was about the lawsuit the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed last year in hopes of forcing 97 oil and gas companies to pay for damage to the state's coastline."

Guest commentary: Why is lawsuit such a bad idea? (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 04/09/14)
Prof. Oliver Houck: "Louisiana legislators, still searching for a reason to quash the New Orleans levee board’s you-broke-it-you-fix it lawsuit against major oil companies, have turned up instead a canard. ...I do not think we are ready to write off the 5 million acres of wetlands that used to buffer us from the Gulf of Mexico and have provided so much bounty.... Not much time, though, because of the beast whose name our legislators have trouble mentioning as well: sea level rise. Every time it is measured, the rates go up. ... Louisiana will require major funding to hold whatever line it can.... but one big player is missing: the one that created much of our predicament (most conservative estimates start at one-third of coastal loss), made large sums of money so doing and has so far avoided paying any part of the bill: The oil and gas industry. That is all the levee board suit is asking: not that this industry be heaped in blame, not that it pay for all harm, just that it pay its share."

Editorial: Logic runs through it: An EPA rule will clarify its authority on water (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA] , 04/08/14)
"“All the rivers run into the sea,” notes Ecclesiastes, and they do this even if they are streams that do not flow all year. As long as water flows downhill, pollution in one place can be carried to another. So it makes sense that the Environmental Protection Agency has long sought to recognize this reality. But Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 have confused the understanding of which waterways can be subject to EPA rules. On March 25 it issued a proposal to clarify that intermittent streams near bigger ones will be covered."