Editorials and Opinion
Editorial: Sessions’ right-wing values sure to follow him as AG (Chicago Sun Times, 01/11/17)
"In response to questioning during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sessions .... avoided potential conflicts by soft-pedaled reality. In truth, every attorney sets priorities, informed by his or her own values, because there’s no way around it .... Even a big federal bureaucracy has a limit to its resources. A nominee might say “I’ll enforce the law” — they all do say that — but every attorney general is afforded huge latitude as to which laws to enforce aggressively. ... It matters, then, that Sessions holds unfortunate views on many of the big issues of the day. It matters that he has a retrograde public record on voting rights, climate change, same-sex marriage, the environment, immigration, incarceration, free speech and religious freedom.
We are a nation of laws, but men and women enforce those laws. Or they do not."
Block Jeff Sessions for Attorney General (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/12/16)
Guest Post by Erwin Chemerinsky: The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting race discrimination in voting, employment, housing and policing. Nothing in Sessions’ career offers hope that he would be other than a disaster in doing so.... The Justice Department, through its Environment and Natural Resources Division, plays a key role in enforcing federal environmental laws. Here, too, Sessions has a terrible record.
Gazette editorial: Pollution’s champion to head EPA (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 12/10/16)
"Incoming President Donald Trump chose some abominable appointees: racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general .... now Trump has veered back to the abominable in choosing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — a fierce enemy of pollution controls and the Environmental Protection Agency — to head the EPA."
Senators Must Vote ‘No’ To Jeff Sessions As Attorney General: Senators could diligently review the record and vote their conscience. (Huffington Post, 11/22/16)
Christopher Kang: Senate Democrats can not stop this nomination unless Republicans join them, and based on the public statements of support so far, that doesn’t seem likely.
Then again, I imagine this was also the analysis in 1986, when a Republican-controlled Senate considered Sessions’ nomination to the district court—before the Senate Judiciary Committee held two sets of hearings. Before Senator Howell Heflin (also of Alabama) withdrew his support, stating “fairness and impartiality go to the very heart of our justice system...as long as I have reasonable doubts, my conscience is not clear, and I must vote no.” Before two Republicans joined every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in opposing his nomination. Before the Judiciary Committee rejected a lower court nomination for the first time in nearly half a century.
What happened in 1986 could happen again today: Senators could diligently review the record and vote their conscience.
Another View -- Elizabeth Wydra: The promise and progress of the U.S. Constitution (New Hampshire Union Leader, 09/23/16)
"The promise of justice, for example, is threatened by the unprecedented breach by Senate Republicans of their constitutional responsibilities regarding judicial nominations. Since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, they have confirmed just 22 judicial nominees — a record low since the 1950s when the judiciary was half its current size.
That leaves 90 vacancies on federal courts around the nation, 35 representing judicial emergencies, meaning they are vastly overburdened. These vacancies don’t just affect the nominees. They affect everyone. The speedy trial rights of criminal defendants are threatened. Civil cases are delayed. And citizens are denied timely justice on a range of issues including civil rights, clean air and water, corporate responsibility and reproductive rights.
Perhaps the most well known of those vacant seats is the one on the Supreme Court, rendering the Court unable to reach decisions in tied cases."
End logjam of gridlock, fill federal court slots: Where We Stand [Editorial] (Orlando Sentinel [FL] , 08/21/16)
"An emergency exists in Florida's federal court system and the group responsible for fixing the problem — the U.S. Senate — just yawns and shrugs its collective shoulders. .... And it's not just Florida that is suffering. More than 10 percent of the nation's 677 federal district judgeships are vacant, awaiting approval by the Senate. In Florida, five of 37 district judge slots, 14 percent, are unfilled. ... With a smaller number of judges taking on the growing responsibility, workloads increase, delays lengthen and costs rise.... "It's like an emergency room in a hospital," said Southern District Chief Judge Federico Moreno. " ... Eventually you burn out."... justice delayed is justice denied.
It's now so bad in Florida that four of the vacancies have been declared "judicial emergencies." ... in states that have both a Republican and Democratic senator, it is easy for one of them to stop such a vote, which in Florida is what Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did on Southern District nominee Mary Barzee Flores"
The Senate’s Unearned Vacation (Huffington Post, 07/14/16)
Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club: "there’s no more blatant shirking going on than the Senate’s failure to consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. The end of this week will mark 120 days since Judge Garland was nominated to the highest court in the land. Yet Senate Republicans have categorically refused to hold a hearing on his nomination. ... six Supreme Court nominees have been confirmed in the final year of a presidential term.
The Supreme Court needs nine justices. Period. The Constitution is clear: The president nominates the justices, and the Senate provides “Advice and Consent.” By hindering the ability of the Supreme Court to function, Senate Republicans are holding our government hostage. Once the president has submitted a nominee, refusing to hold a hearing is partisan politics at its worst.
These are momentous times for the United States, and a functional judicial branch is imperative. At stake are nothing less than the clean air, clean water, and climate action safeguards that we have fought for decades to secure"
Editorial: Extreme partisanship blocks judges, cripples federal courts (Palm Beach Post [FL], 06/27/16)
"Think it’s bad that we have an empty seat on the U.S. Supreme Court?
Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Senate Republicans have been so successful in their strategy of obstructing any nominees by President Barack Obama that there are now 89 vacancies in the federal courts system.
Waiting to fill those spots are 58 nominees, the limbo for some going back almost a year and a half. That includes South Florida attorney Mary Barzee Flores, whose nomination 16 months ago has been blocked by her own senator, Marco Rubio. ... federal courts are where citizens go to protect important constitutional rights on voting access, the environment and discrimination. It’s where consumers and workers go to hold corporations accountable. With those courts crippled, essential liberties may be eroded."
EDITORIAL: Garland's Credentials Bona Fide. We Reiterate: Grant a Hearing (New Jersey Law Journal, 04/12/16)
"Then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch observed, of the 1997 Senate (76-23) confirmation of Garland's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, that no one dared to come to the floor to speak against Garland.... the Senate leader's refusal to even consider the president's nominee is without precedent.... when judges are seen as politicians in robes, confidence in the judiciary suffers. Thus the refusal to hold hearings until after the presidential election will do damage to the courts if it is sustained.... In our view, Barack Obama has proposed an ideal "consensus" candidate. One who has garnered bipartisan support in the past.... Merrick Garland is a judge whose record tells us that he models the kind of search for broad agreement that serves the courts and the country well. If the Senate continues to stonewall his nomination, it will embroil the Supreme Court in partisan combat that threatens confidence in the judiciary, as recent remarks by Chief Justice Roberts suggest. We join many others in urging the Senate to offer its advice and consent to the nomination of Judge Garland."
Senators Put Politics Above People in Obstructing Supreme Court Nominee (Huffington Post, 03/03/16)
Trip Van Noppen, President, Earthjustice: "In every Supreme Court vacancy in the history of our Republic, performing the “advice and consent” role has meant giving genuine consideration to a nominee; evaluating the person’s credentials and qualifications, judicial temperament and experience; and deciding whether the individual nominee should be approved.
This has been the case even when a vacancy has occurred during a presidential election year.
But apparently not this time. This time Senate Republicans are refusing to do their job. They stand to make American history by becoming the first Senate majority to put playing politics above doing their job by refusing to consider any nominee from the president, no matter how qualified the candidate may be."
Editorial: Another legal attack on the Chesapeake (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 12/21/15)
"The American Farm Bureau is once again appealing—this time to the U.S. Supreme Court—a lower court’s decision upholding the EPA’s authority to establish and enforce its plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.... The groups’ arguments have previously been rejected both by U.S. District Court and, unanimously, by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.... These repeated court appeals have failed because the EPA is pursuing its role as stipulated by the Clean Water Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972.... Reagan took the EPA and its role in cleaning up the bay very seriously....Now, in an unwelcome case of déjà vu, come the court filings of 92 Republican congressmen and 22 attorneys general—all but two of them Republican—siding with the Farm Bureau in the case. ... The Supreme Court is expected to decide early next year whether it will take the case. A decision to let the lower court’s ruling stand—sending the petitioners home for good—would be welcome news indeed."
Editorial: The G.O.P.’s Worst Budget Riders (New York Times, 12/02/15)
"Many anti-environmental riders have been put forward by lawmakers in committees with jurisdiction over energy, water, air quality, public lands and endangered species. Arguably the most serious threat is one that would invalidate a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that clarifies which waters are protected under federal law from unrestricted dredging, filling and development.... The White House has said it opposes many of these riders, and has threatened previously to veto attempts to weaken the clean-water improvements. But in 2011, the administration caved on some environmental riders. ... Republicans in the House and Senate appear divided, with the House’s far-right caucus eager for a shutdown if it doesn’t get its way and the Senate leadership desperate to avoid one for fear it would hurt its party’s electoral prospects in 2016. That is an opening for Mr. Obama to do the right thing with harmful riders: Just say no."
EDITORIAL: Sea life dying from human failures (Virginian-Pilot, 09/29/15)
"According to a study this month by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, half of the ocean's vertebrate population has disappeared in just four decades....Whether it's through overfishing, pollution or carbon dioxide emissions that cause the oceans to warm and acidify, humans are harming the planet and its mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
The decline has been significant across most species, but it's worse for animals we rely on for food or income.... One in four species of sharks or rays is now under threat of extinction.... Protecting the oceans from exploitation should be part of a worldwide solution .... Reducing pollution and run-off will help take environmental pressure off the oceans' coastal species. So will reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are changing the composition of the oceans themselves.
There is undoubtedly time to reverse the oceans' declines, but only if humans have the will."
Editorial: True conservatives support environmental protection (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 09/20/15)
"A Democratic president’s trip reminds Republicans of their historic ties to environmentalism. Theodore Roosevelt’s embrace of conservation planted the seeds for the environmental movement. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. New York Sen. James Buckley showed that certain “green” policies were compatible with conservative principles. Officials in Virginia and its neighbors have developed a heightened appreciation of the need for government intervention to save the Chesapeake. ... A faction among conservatives refuses, with sectarian zealotry, to concede the reality of climate change and the strong possibility than humanity has contributed to warming. A carbon tax deserves conservative support; cap-and-trade deserves serious debate. The Endangered Species Act has fallen under siege, too. Ideologues want to undermine its effectiveness and to limit its scope. This dismays.... the pope’s encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home,” takes a broad view of humanity’s gifts and obligations that conservatives ought to find congenial. ... It is time for conservatives to listen to what their better angels have to say about the environment. Obama went north to Alaska; conservatives can apply much of his message to regions south of the Last Frontier."
N.J. shortchanged by Exxon Mobil wetlands deal | Editorial (The Times of Trenton [NJ] , 07/27/15)
"State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union County, was one of the first state lawmakers to express outrage when news broke in March that New Jersey had agreed to accept $225 million from the Exxon Mobil Corporation to settle a decade-long case.
The state had originally sought $8.9 billion in compensation for environmental damage done to more than 1,500 of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in the Meadowlands.... Now a state Superior Court has turned down attempts by Lesniak and several environmental groups to intervene in the settlement. Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the activists' attempts to become parties to the suit would "unduly delay" the proceedings.
Despite the setback, the settlement's opponents have pledged to continue to keep up the good fight.
From Day One, Lesniak and Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel have been wary of the deal – and with good cause.... It's hard not to feel that New Jersey residents are being sold down the river by all this. The Garden State deserves to be compensated for the loss of valuable public resources, not forced into a sweetheart deal of Chris Christie's making."
EDITORIAL: Raking in donations, shoveling bad policy (Virginian-Pilot, 07/07/15)
"Nutrient pollution causes algae blooms, which cause the bay's annual dead zones, which kill everything they engulf: fish, oysters, crabs, plants. That was the damage the Chesapeake Bay Agreement was forged to prevent. ... The agreement was eventually given some enforcement powers - the EPA could theoretically take control of clean-up if progress wasn't made - but Washington refused to act. Until the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued to force the EPA to do so. In 2010, the bay states - which now include New York, Delaware and West Virginia - came under EPA orders to cut pollution in their waterways, although the states still decided how to reach the targets."
Editorial: Rep. Goodlatte takes aim at the Bay cleanup, again (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 07/05/15)
"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is suing the state of Virginia for its failure to require farmers to erect fencing that would keep livestock out of the Bay’s tributaries.
Virginia’s farmers are proving themselves a cooperative bunch. They are taking seriously key best management practices, .... But the improvement gained through those efforts is lost when livestock wades into streams and relieves itself, creating a significant sewage pollution issue.
... The state agencies would do well to revisit the permit language, add the fencing requirement, seek funding to assist the operations in meeting the provision and settle the suit. Money put toward that purpose is much better spent than on litigation defense."
EDITORIAL: Stop ExxonMobil settlement (Daily Record [NJ], 06/10/15)
"New Jersey’s pollution settlement with ExxonMobil for a mere $225 million — out of nearly $9 billion in damages the state had sought from the company in a lawsuit — has been the source of great angst among environmentalists. They’ve labeled the deal a sellout and for good reason .... This deal is so egregiously bad for New Jersey that critics aren’t content to just verbally blast away at Christie and move on. They want to stop this settlement before it’s finalized by the courts .... Seven environmental groups announced plans on Wednesday to jump in on a lawsuit seeking to block final acceptance of the settlement.... The ExxonMobil deal should be blocked. And future settlements with polluters should be devoted primarily to the environment. We urge lawmakers and activists to continue working toward both goals."
EDITORIAL: G.O.P. Assault on Environmental Laws (New York Times, 06/08/15)
"President Obama has announced or will soon propose important protections for clean water, clean air, threatened species and threatened landscapes. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and other Republicans in Congress are trying hard not to let that happen ... the sage grouse initiative is a legitimate executive action aimed at carrying out Congress’s purpose in the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which was to save a species before it disappears."
Editorial: Earth Day serves as reminder of the goals we must pursue together (Free Lance-Star [VA] , 04/21/15)
"Given the science that tells us the realities and implications of climate change, however, it is clearly up to us to do what we can to combat it, delay it and adapt to it. With the 2016 presidential campaign already unfolding, it’s fair game to judge the viability of any candidate in part by whether he or she accepts the consensus of climate change research and will govern true to that belief."
EDITORIAL: Restoring delta must be part of tunnels plan (Fresno Bee [CA] , 04/20/15)
"U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the plan would harm water quality and aquatic life, and increase pollution.... a focused, coordinated approach to restore habitat to help endangered and threatened species recover should be part of the governor’s new plan."
EDITORIAL: Brown shouldn’t leave eco goals out of new Delta plan; Set metrics on restoration and start it now (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 04/19/15)
"The Bay Delta Conservation Plan was proposed with two equal goals: to reliably supply Southern Californians and Central Valley farmers with water, and to restore the Delta ecosystem to save endangered species, such as salmon and Delta smelt. ... a focused, coordinated approach to restore habitat to help endangered and threatened species recover should be part of the governor’s new plan.... the governor should specifically define the ecological goals, set measurable objectives for recovery of species, produce a coordinated action plan and strictly monitor its progress."
EDITORIAL: More double dealing in ExxonMobil settlement (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 04/17/15)
"Gov. Chris Christie's sellout to ExxonMobil just keeps getting worse. ... This settlement is a boon to ExxonMobil — and a huge loser for the state, both from an environmental and financial standpoint. The practical effect of that $225 million will be minimal given all the provisions and caveats — and the state is almost certainly leaving a whole lot of money on the table."
NWA Editorial: Cavefish help region develop the right way (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 04/17/15)
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the fish a threatened species.... cavefish are living barometers of the condition of the Northwest Arkansas water supply and how well we're taking care of it.
In short, if the cave fish disappear, it means the region's water quality is on the decline. With all the development and population growth in Northwest Arkansas, the region's leaders must be continually concerned with protecting water supplies.... A recently released study suggests the Ozark cavefish and residential develop can co-exist .... the presence of the cavefish demonstrates the groundwater in the area is fairly high quality.... those pushing development cannot themselves be as blind as the cavefish when it comes to valuing protecting of the environment.
This critical discussion must happen before irreparable harm is done.... Approaching it any other way would suggest the Ozark cavefish isn't the only creature that's blind."
Editorial: Toxic details emerge from N.J. $250M settlement with Exxon Mobil (The Times of Trenton [NJ] , 04/09/15)
"There was little hope that closer examination would make the deal New Jersey tentatively reached with Exxon Mobil over the befouling of the state's environment smell better.... the report confirmed our suspicions that Exxon is getting a sweetheart deal beyond all comprehension.... Environmentalists are mounting a campaign to derail the deal, encouraging state residents to raise their voices during the public comment period.
We second their motion."
EDITORIAL: Gov. Christie’s Bad Deal With Exxon (New York Times, 04/09/15)
"New Jersey has been fighting for years to get the Exxon Mobil Corporation to clean up and pay up after turning more than 1,500 acres of marshes and waterways into toxic wastelands. But, just as a State Superior Court judge was about to rule on the case earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration suddenly and unexpectedly agreed to settle with Exxon for 3 cents on the dollar. The agreement, which became public on Monday, allows Exxon to escape with a payment of $225 million, far less than the estimated $8.9 billion the state had originally asked for a decade ago.
There will be no public hearing for this deal, which was negotiated in secret by the state. ...Anyone who wants cleaner air and water in New Jersey should urge Mr. Christie to reject this obvious sellout. If enough people raise questions, the State Department of Environmental Protection might well have second thoughts. If it does not, it will be up to Judge Michael Hogan to reject this insufficient settlement and demand more from Exxon."
Editorial: Details are in — and ExxonMobil deal still stinks (Asbury Park Press [NJ], 04/07/15)
"What matters is how the figure compares to the actual amount of environmental damage involved — and the state was seeking $8.9 billion in claims in a case in which a judge had already found ExxonMobil liable.
So, yes, this was a sellout to a major corporation. It's a great deal — for ExxonMobil. It's a lousy one for New Jersey.... The more we know about this settlement the worse it looks. The arrangement includes a provision to release ExxonMobil from any pollution liability at 16 other industrial sites and hundreds of gas stations.... scuttle this deal."
Exxon slimes Jersey, and passes the cost on to Uncle Sam | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 04/07/15)
"More than one-third of ExxonMobil's $225 million wrist-slap for turning 1,800 acres of our marshes and wetlands into tar pits will be passed along to the federal taxpayer.... if enough lawmakers want to change the federal tax code - perhaps by prohibiting settlements to be classified as compensatory or deductible - that would put bad actors on notice."
EDITORIAL: The Record: Exxon deal revisited (Record [NJ] , 04/07/15)
"THE STATE'S proposed settlement of a nearly $9 billion pollution suit with ExxonMobil for a mere $225 million may not be as irresponsible as it looked when it surfaced in late February. That is not praise, but a call for more intense scrutiny of the deal."