Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: U.S. Senate is tackling drought relief (Fresno Bee [CA] , 02/11/14)
"There is much to like in the senators' ideas. As Feinstein pointed out Tuesday morning in a conference call with The Bee editorial board, the proposed drought relief wouldn't violate the Endangered Species and Clean Water acts."
Editorial: McCarthy should whip a new water deal into shape (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 02/04/14)
"Among other things, H.R. 3964 would:
• Repeal the bipartisan settlement aimed at restoring flows in the San Joaquin River, which once supported spring-run salmon before it started drying up after the Friant Dam was built in the 1940s. This is unnecessary. • Override the bipartisan state law, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009, that requires that any actions in the Delta be aimed at achieving co-equal goals of restoring the Delta and improving water supply reliability."
Editorial: Playing politics with California's drought; Competing interests are working together on water. A House GOP bill would undermine their efforts. (Los Angeles Times, 02/03/14)
"Funny, isn't it, that folks who question man's ability to affect the global climate are so quick to assign human causes to the drought? ... In their imagined "people versus fish" scenario, towns are going dry and growers are going out of business because crazy environmentalists are hogging water to protect an obscure fish, the delta smelt. Water that could irrigate fields and keep people working is instead being kept in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and flushed into the ocean. What they don't like to point out is that without that supposed flush pushing out into the Pacific, seawater would continue to intrude farther into the delta, leaving only useless salty brine to pump into canals and onto fields — and then where would the growers and the rest of us be? ... And as for the smelt, the Endangered Species Act protects not only that fish but all of us, by holding together the fragile environmental web we rely on."
Editorial: Law favors fish over people? No, people need fish (Redding Record Searchlight [CA], 01/29/14)
"“How you can favor a fish over people is something the people in my part of the world would not understand.” So said no less an eminence than House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, last week while visiting California to promote a measure that would waive various federal protections of rare fish and halt an effort to restore salmon to the San Joaquin River.... But let’s be clear about one thing: We don’t favor fish over people, even if the law might look that way sometimes. We favor fish for people.
Salmon make a tasty dinner and keep thousands of Northern Californians employed ... Nobody much loves the poor Delta smelt, a “3-inch baitfish” that has become a symbol of misguided priorities to San Joaquin Valley conservatives. But little fish feed big fish. Killing off the bottom of the food chain works about as well as pulling the foundation out from under a house."
PD Editorial: No drought in California's water wars (Press Democrat [CA] , 01/27/14)
"[T]he Senate already rejected the House bill once — and for good reason. A drought isn't justification to ignore the Endangered Species Act or undercut one important California industry — salmon fishing — in favor of another — agriculture. Both need assistance to thrive, and both are accomplished water warriors. Boehner surely scored some points with the most militant growers, but his bill isn't going anywhere."
Editorial: A brazen GOP water grab (San Francisco Chronicle [CA] , 01/27/14)
"For simple-minded thinking on California's worsening drought, it would be hard to top the ideas trotted out by Republican leaders. Their plan: Divert water to farms and forget the environment.... House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, flew in to talk up the issue, playing the role of the puzzled outsider perplexed by California's water policies. Why not steer the flows to farms, not fish, he suggested, playing on long-running controversies over diverting water to save and restore historic fish runs. At his side were valley Republicans looking for an issue to improve their chances of re-election and widen the appeal of a party as endangered here as the salmon they denigrate."
Editorial: California's drought, times three; The state is facing three distinct water crises, each requiring its own emergency and long-term responses. (Los Angeles Times, 01/26/14)
"We may have to build new dams to store water for future use without drying up rivers and destroying the ecosystem, as dams in California historically have done. ...That means diverting some of the delta's water with pumps that do less damage to endangered fish and rely less on earthquake-vulnerable levees. The kind of system envisioned by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would help all parts of California deal with global climate change and its inevitable result: precipitation that falls on the Sierra less like the snow that generations have come to rely on and more like the rain that comes, when it does, to Southern California in unmanageable torrents."
Editorial: Don't use 'drought emergency' to divide us (Bakersfield Californian [CA], 01/25/14)
"Boehner should know a thing or two about the "nonsense" of a bureaucracy that protects fish and water quality; he should know that when it comes to water, simple answers are exceedingly hard to come by. The legislation Boehner and the three Valley Republicans are proposing -- this time as a short-term emergency response -- was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and strongly opposed by state and federal agencies in 2012. Likely the proposed "emergency" legislation will meet the same end this year.... Coastal salmon fishermen say it will destroy their industry. And Delta farmers and environmentalists contend it is a blatant, short-sighted water grab fueled by political contributions from big growers....And increasing Delta exports in a dry year could end up hurting both the Delta and water users to the south. It could suck salty sea water into the Delta and into aqueducts that transport water to Valley and Southland farms and cities."
Boehner vs. fish and Delta farms (Sonoma Index-Tribune [CA] , 01/23/14)
By David Bolling/ Index-Tribune Editor: "Boehner, who is from Ohio and thus revealed his ignorance of both hydrological reality and environmental sustainability while milking the state’s potentially catastrophic drought for profoundly political purposes. Boehner was on hand to lend support to three Central Valley Congressmen who want to adopt federal legislation suspending the endangered species act, reversing restoration of the San Joaquin River and draining the Delta to water farms in Bakersfield, Tulare and Hanford, among other places, during the drought. Reducing the drought to a fallacious equation pitting endangered fish against people mocks science and blocks a rational conversation over wise, realistic and equitable solutions to California’s chronic water crisis. The bill Boehner says he’ll support would protect the interests of some farmers at the expense of others, while placing the future of salmon restoration in even greater peril."
Editorial: A Speaker Boehner runs through it (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/23/14)
"Along with GOP Reps. Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, Boehner said he wants to delay implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Project until 2015, which would leave salmon high and dry. Anything Boehner can do to assist with Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought response would be welcome. Gutting the intent of the Endangered Species Act isn’t."
Editorial: Critical tool helps threatened species (Virginian-Pilot, 01/14/14)
"Endangered species in America would become considerably more endangered if the anti-regulation crowd in Congress ever gets its way. Thankfully, that doesn't appear likely, at least anytime soon. The Endangered Species Protection Act, signed by President Richard Nixon, reached its 40th birthday last month. It is one of those federal laws - like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts - that has done immense good for the nation simply by demanding that businesses and people be responsible for their own actions.... Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Dean Heller have introduced legislation that would gut the Endangered Species Act, requiring an act of Congress to add a new animal, allowing states to opt out, and requiring individual protections to be renewed every five years.... such legislation would reverse decades of progress, imperiling species that are already threatened. ... It has worked for 40 years, and it shouldn't be sacrificed simply because animals can't write campaign checks."
Save the Shark, Save the World (New York Times, 12/31/13)
OP-ED By JOSHUA S. REICHERT: "Given China’s immense size and expanding influence, it has the potential to play a key role in helping to solve the problems of climate change, overfishing, pollution and conservation. The new shark-fin diplomacy may prove to be a pivotal event — but only if China adopts the environmental leadership that the world so desperately needs."
Barack Obama Is Not George W. Bush (New York Magazine, 12/20/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Obama’s prospects for executive action are actually stronger now. The main impediments to an aggressive regulatory agenda were twofold. First, Republicans could stop regulations by blocking nominees for major agencies. Second, they held a functional majority on the D.C. Circuit Court, and stood poised to block Obama’s environmental and financial reforms. Republicans understood full well the importance of that court to Obama’s second term. (McConnell, again, identified the crucial dynamic: Obama’s second-term agenda, he said, “runs straight through the D.C. Circuit.”) That’s why Republicans took the extraordinary step of declaring a full blockade on any nominee for the court’s three vacancies, however ideologically moderate. And it’s why the Senate Democrats’ decision to abolish the judicial filibuster looms so large. With a stroke, they eliminated the strongest leverage Republicans have to gum up the president’s second term. Obama has managed to seat nominees to the Federal Housing Authority and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And the odds that the court will overturn new regulations have diminished sharply."
Affirming Our All-American Conservation Values Through the Endangered Species Act (Huffington Post, 12/20/13)
Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO, Defenders of Wildlife: "many of our nation's conservation laws were passed with the enthusiastic support of wide bipartisan majorities. This was especially true of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed into law 40 years ago this December 28 by Republican President Richard M. Nixon.... The ESA is one of our most enduring and successful environmental measures. Examples of the ESA's success in protecting species and their habitats are extensive: Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, gray wolves, Florida manatees, American alligators, grizzly bears, and black-footed ferrets have all been rescued from the brink of extinction. ...Today, way too many lawmakers seem quickly willing to undermine the ESA, which they falsely claim is burdensome and an intrusive federal overreach. In the last Congress, Defenders of Wildlife chronicled a record number of attacks on the ESA and we've seen devastating new ones emerge in this current session. ... The right choice is to uphold the conservation values and sense of responsibility to future generations that shaped the ESA 40 years ago. Future generations deserve nothing less."
Letter to the editor: Millett's confirmation was an important event (Asheville Citizen-Times [NC] , 12/15/13)
Donna Red Wing: "Federal judges like those on the D.C. Circuit make decisions that affect every facet of our lives — hearing cases impacting the environment, health care, immigration, marriage equality and much more. These are important issues that matter to all Americans. This is exactly why our courts matter."
Letter to the editor: Millett's confirmation was an important event (Des Moines Register [IA] , 12/15/13)
Donna Red Wing: "The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals 56-38. This vote should be celebrated as a defining moment that will help put the Senate back to the important work of vetting and voting for qualified judicial candidates to fill vacancies. It took rules reform to stop the gridlock that has been perpetrated by those who chose to block President Obama’s nominees. It’s imperative that we have a diverse, fair and functioning judiciary."
Letter to the Editor: Functioning again (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 12/02/13)
Eleanor Levie, National Council of Jewish Women: "Because of the necessary reform of the filibuster, the Senate's next session should mean confirmation of three, highly qualified nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ... After that, we should see an end to the judicial vacancy crisis here in Pennsylvania, with the confirmation of nominees to the federal district courts in the state that both Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Bob Casey (D., Pa.) have championed ... Courts matter: Their decisions impact our religious freedom, our voting rights, our air and water, the safety of the products we buy, and more."
The Filibuster and the Environment (Legal Planet: The Environmental Law & Policy Blog, 11/25/13)
Prof. Dan Farber: "In the short run, at least, EPA and other environmental agencies will benefit by having a more sympathetic bench and by filling executive branch positions that have been blocked by the threat of filibuster. In the long run, whenever the same party controls both the Senate and the White House, it will have more ability to control judicial and executive nominations. This will favor environmentalists if that party is the Democrats; industry when that party is the Republicans."
Editorial | Filibusted: GOP had it coming (Courier-Journal [KY] , 11/24/13)
"But the only regret here is that Democrats didn’t act sooner to end unprecedented obstruction by a minority of Republicans when it comes to the president’s right to appoint federal judges and officials to numerous executive positions that require Senate confirmation.... Republicans already had taken filibuster obstruction to new levels during the administration of President Barack Obama. The final straw for Democrats last week came after the GOP blocked the third of three appointments to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Not because the three highly regarded nominees were controversial. They aren’t. Not because they aren’t eminently qualified. They are. The Republican minority in the GOP blocked the nominees simply to obstruct the president’s constitutional right to appoint members to a court considered enormously powerful, especially when it comes to considering policies and regulations of Washington.
The GOP hates the idea of judges on that court who might be friendly toward the Obama administration when it comes, say, to tougher environmental regulations."
Editorial | Filibusted: GOP had it coming (Lancaster Eagle-Gazette [OH], 11/24/13)
"Republicans already had taken filibuster obstruction to new levels during the administration of President Barack Obama. The final straw for Democrats last week came after the GOP blocked the third of three appointments to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
Not because the three highly regarded nominees were controversial. They aren’t.
Not because they aren’t eminently qualified. They are. The Republican minority in the GOP blocked the nominees simply to obstruct the president’s constitutional right to appoint members to a court considered enormously powerful, especially when it comes to considering policies and regulations of Washington. The GOP hates the idea of judges on that court who might be friendly toward the Obama administration when it comes, say, to tougher environmental regulations."
Editorial: The filibuster falls, a victim of abuse (St. Louis Post-Dispatch [MO] , 11/23/13)
"Now, with political partisanship as deep as it has been since Reconstruction, the abuses reached the point where Mr. Reid decided to pull the trigger.... The upshot was that the ability of the courts and the executive branch to do business has become severely compromised.... The proximate cause of the rule change was the GOP refusal to let three of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., come to a vote. That court, because it generally has jurisdiction over regulatory agencies, is regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in the impact of its deliberations. The current appeals court has done great damage to environmental and financial regulations.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, himself an alumnus of the D.C. Court of Appeals, has written that at least a third of the cases that come before the Supreme Court deal with regulatory challenges. That’s one reason why judges from that appeals court often find their way to the Supreme Court. Currently there are four judges on the appeals court appointed by Democrats (including one of Mr. Obama’s nominees who was confirmed after a long delay earlier this year) and four appointed by Republicans. Five of the six senior judges, who are semiretired, are Republican appointees. Republican senators did not want the court’s overall conservatism diluted by Mr. Obama’s appointees, no matter how qualified they are. Republicans are correct that the Democrats played this game, too. But this year there have been an average of 69 vacant judicial seats, creating long delays and heavy caseloads. The highest number of vacancies during the Bush administration was 35."
Editorial: "Nuclear option" was inevitable (Denver Post [CO] , 11/22/13)
"When Senate Republicans this week blocked a vote on President Obama's nominee to an important federal appeals court — the third such maneuver in a month — it was apparent lawmakers had hit a point of no return....The D.C. Court of Appeals, which was the flashpoint for the rule change, isn't your ordinary federal appeals court. The 11-member court has three vacancies. Of its active judges, four were appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans. The court is unique because its caseload is loaded with claims against the federal government.
And that's likely to include cases challenging Obama administration regulations stemming from Environmental Protection Agency actions, and the implementation of Dodd-Frank financial reforms."
Filibuster demolition could clear the air for greener rulings (Grist Magazine, 11/22/13)
Ben Adler: "the D.C. Circuit Court and its makeup. Currently, there are four Democratic appointees on the court, one of whom was appointed by Obama. There are four Republicans. Three seats are empty, and six semi-retired judges are brought in periodically to alleviate the workload. Five of those stand-ins are Republican appointees. You can see the results of their handiwork. Putting Obama’s appointees in their place would make a big difference. Circuit court cases are heard by a three-judge panel chosen at random, so it matters a great deal which judges you pull....Historically, filibusters of judicial nominations were reserved for unqualified cronies and ideological extremists, but that just isn’t the case here.... The D.C. Circuit is the highest-profile arena to feel the impact of the Senate’s filibuster busting, but the move will help fill critical judicial vacancies throughout the federal bench."
Filibustering Clean Air and Climate Action (Huffington Post, 11/13/13)
Courtney Hight, Director, Sierra Club's Democracy Program: "extremists in the U.S. Senate blocked yet another highly-qualified nominee to the federal judiciary, filibustering the appointment of law professor Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court. ... It is no surprise that many reckless Senate Republicans will do anything it takes to keep seats on the D.C. Circuit Court vacant: If they were filled, it could bring balance to the court and ensure our most important laws are enforced fairly."
EDITORIAL: Waste, waste everywhere in water bill before the House (Washington Post, 10/23/13)
"Also, the bill would limit environmental review and public comment on corps projects, even though activists insist that poor project planning and the cumbersome authorization and funding process are much more responsible than environmentalists for delaying worthy construction. Instead of constraining environmental reviews, lawmakers should fix the big problem: the failure of the authorization system to sort out good projects from the merely mediocre, or even the plainly bad."