Editorials and Opinion
How Harry Reid Changed the Federal Courts (New Yorker, 03/27/15)
JEFFREY TOOBIN: "The Senate had confirmed only five Obama appointees to the federal appeals court in the election year of 2012, but Reid moved to double the pace in 2013. Republicans responded by filibustering almost every judicial appointment to the appeals court and slow-walking appointments to the district court, which had been routine and uncontroversial under earlier Presidents. ... With Reid’s blessing, Senate Democrats changed the rules so that only a majority would be required to move lower-court judgeships to a vote. Freed from the threat of filibusters, Reid pushed through thirteen appeals-court judges in 2013 and 2014, a group of exceptional quality. They included Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins on the D.C. Circuit. For the first time in decades, that court now has a majority of Democratic appointees. Other confirmations included such luminaries as Pamela Harris (a noted professor and advocate) on the Fourth Circuit, ... and David Barron (a Harvard law professor and Obama Administration lawyer) on the First. ... At the same time, Reid pushed through more than a hundred district-court judges in his last two years as majority leader."
Living downwind from polluters, Jersey needs EPA muscle | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 03/27/15)
"The EPA wants to impose regulations that would reduce scores of pollutants spit out by power plants, but the coal industry and 21 states have dragged the agency into court to defend the practice of forcing New Jersey and other respiratory bystanders to gag on their smokestacks.... oral arguments before the Supreme Court Wednesday make it easy to pick a side ... Beyond the health concerns - which the EPA is required to protect - coal is a chief culprit in the conversion of the planet into a cosmic hothouse"
PFAW Edit Memo: Senate Republicans' Failure to Confirm Obama Nominees — By the Numbers (People For blog, 03/27/15)
"A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when his judicial nominees were considered by a newly-Democratic Senate. ...by end of March 2007, the Senate had confirmed 15 new judges.
The Senate ended up confirming a total of 68 circuit and district court judges during that two-year period....Today, in stark contrast, the number of vacancies is climbing steadily, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 51 today. We see the same thing with judicial emergencies, which have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 23 today."
EDITORIAL: Uphold EPA’s mercury rule; Supreme Court to hear challenge by industry, states (Register Guard [OR], 03/25/15)
"At the direction of Congress, which felt strongly enough about the problem that it amended the Clean Air Act in 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency has studied the environmental effects of mercury and other toxic metals on public health. ... but the work was compromised during the George W. Bush administration, which disregarded science in ways that showed more concern for the health of the energy industry than for that of children. The Bush administration’s version of the rules was so diluted that environmental groups successfully sued, arguing that the toxic metals regulations failed to satisfy the minimum requirements of the Clean Air Act.... It’s worrisome that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., rejected the industry’s challenge, and most observers expected the high court to refuse an appeal. ... The Supreme Court should uphold the EPA’s authority to put in place the new mercury rule."
Editorial Name your poison: For the GOP and coal industry, it's mercury (Los Angeles Times, 03/25/15)
"Given the science as well as the history behind the regulation of coal-fired plants, it is dismaying that the industry and some Republican states continue to challenge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set new limits. And it is especially disturbing that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear their case, which it will do Wednesday, even though its previous rulings on similar environmental matters have clearly upheld the EPA’s broad discretion to regulate such pollutants.... Federal anti-pollution laws exist not to save money (although sometimes they apparently do), but because they protect human lives, reduce suffering and preserve the environment."
Editorial: Hudson Valley needs a wise High Court ruling (Poughkeepsie Journal [NY] , 03/25/15)
"Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could lead to a better crackdown on polluters, and New Yorkers should hope the court gets this right.
Specifically, the federal government seeks to reduce emissions of mercury and other airborne pollutants....a strong, federally imposed solution – not one letting states jeopardize the health and environmental of other states – is essential. The court should see the fallacy of ruling otherwise."
PD Editorial: Some needed candor on climate change (Press Democrat [CA] , 03/24/15)
"[C]limate policy must be at or near the top of the agenda.
There may be room to debate how much human activities are driving rising temperatures, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, unusual weather patterns and other signs of climate change. But too many policymakers, most though not all of them Republicans, deny clear evidence of climate change, by whatever cause, or dodge the issue altogether by saying they aren’t scientists."
EDITORIAL: Court challenge on coal controls, Obama’s environmental policies (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 03/24/15)
"At first glance a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday focuses on how far a federal agency can go in capping harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants. But it’s also a major test of one of President Obama’s biggest legacies: his environmental policies on energy use and climate change.... This argument has failed in lower court cases, and should rightly lose again. The agency pegs the social costs at $37 billion or more in shortened lives and medical care linked to asthma and other ailments. ... The court, more than Congress, can play a key role in deciding this country’s energy future."
EDITORIAL: Open secret; Texas is not the focus of the state's junior senator. (Houston Chronicle, 03/23/15)
"Trade, NASA, hurricane protection, immigration, education, energy policy, federal judgeships and a host of other issues important to Texans will have, at best, the senator's distracted attention.... we look to his senior colleague, John Cornyn, to address Texas-related needs."
EDITORIAL: Manatees still warrant protections (Tampa Tribune [FL] , 03/23/15)
"The record number of manatees observed during the annual manatee count this year is no cause to diminish protections for the gentle seagoing mammal.... The counts are notoriously unreliable, with the weather determining how many manatees are spotted.... an unseasonably cold winter or a widespread red tide outbreak can quickly change the manatee’s prospects. ... So federal and state officials should be dubious about any attempt to slash manatee protections."
Editorial: The return of the Bald Eagle (Record Journal [CT], 03/23/15)
"Connecticut’s bald eagles are showing signs of adaptability ... If we take care of the Quinnipiac, perhaps their numbers will increase."
Wisconsin Voter ID Reminds Us of the Importance of Circuit Courts (People For blog, 03/23/15)
"When the entire circuit was asked to review the panel decision, they split 5-5, just one vote short of preventing those rules from going into effect. One judge could have really made a difference. And it just so happens that Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has blocked efforts to fill a longtime vacancy on that court for more than four years, since the day he took office after the 2010 elections. Make no mistake: Johnson and his fellow Republicans preventing President Obama from putting judges on the bench know full well how important the federal courts are, especially the circuit courts.
In fact, the Seventh Circuit is not the only one with a long-unfilled vacancy. Republican senators from Texas, Kentucky, and Alabama have also been blocking President Obama's efforts to nominate highly qualified jurists to fill longtime vacancies on the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits."
EDITORIAL: Clean Air Act and Dirty Coal at the Supreme Court (New York Times, 03/23/15)
"The name of the law at issue before the Supreme Court on Wednesday is the Clean Air Act. It is not the Coal Industry Protection Act, despite what that industry’s advocates seem to want the justices to believe.... The Supreme Court has upheld the E.P.A.’s authority to carry out that law’s purpose with broad discretion. There is no reason to upset that deliberate balance, or unreasonably limit the agency’s authority, now."
Climate change is not just a bunch of hot air: Editorial (Republican [Springfield, MA], 03/23/15)
"If climate change opponents are responsible, they will engage in that debate. But first, they should stop misrepresenting the issue by pretending that it's only about high temperatures, and not about a variety of disturbing patterns that cannot be ignored forever."
EDITORIAL: Struggling bees need allies beyond the almond industry (Fresno Bee [CA] , 03/21/15)
"Even amid crops that, unlike corn and soy, require bees for pollination, herbicides are wiping out the milkweed, mustard and other wild food that pollinators rely on. Meanwhile, systemic pesticides engineered into plants’ very seeds appear to be sickening bees and encouraging parasites and diseases.
Bees are far from the only casualty; the situation has brought Monarch butterflies close to endangered species status.... The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the safety of neonicotinoid pesticides, which appear to be impairing bee health"
EDITORIAL: Florida's 'head in sand' position on climate change could be costly (Herald [Bradenton, FL] , 03/21/15)
"Climate change deniers: There's a new wrinkle to Gov. Rick "I am not a scientist" Scott's refusal to acknowledge climate change -- fresh on the heels of his administration's unwritten policy banning the mere mention of the phrase and others. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is cracking down on state governments that deny man-made climate change by withholding disaster preparedness funds.
Only states that adopt hazard mitigation plans that deal with climate risks will receive those dollars. Think flooding in South Florida and elsewhere as ocean levels rise as well as other damaging impacts.... Gov. Scott, embrace the evidence, not the politics."
EDITORIAL: More manatees at our shores; Thumbs up (Florida Today, 03/20/15)
"Given that 140 manatees have died in the Indian River Lagoon since 2012, for undetermined reasons, this is encouraging news. These marvelous marine mammals are welcomed here, whatever the weather."
EDITORIAL: Looking up: Math works for manatees (Northwest Florida Daily News, 03/19/15)
"State and Central Florida governments, including Volusia County, have responded to the Indian River Lagoon crisis by crafting new environmental policies designed to reduce the amount of chemicals flushed into area waterways and springs through stormwater runoff. A healthier lagoon and springs can only help the manatee population."
The Christie-Exxon relationship may be toxic for the rest of us | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 03/19/15)
"Gov. Christie took a victory lap over his Bayway cleanup deal with Exxon last week ... He won that negotiation, he insists, because $225 million extracted from Exxon over its tar-dumping party ... But here's what he doesn't tell you: Exxon has been obligated to clean the area since a consent order in 1991, but the real goal of the $8.9 billion lawsuit was the full-scale restoration of the 1,500 acres of wetlands contaminated by 4,000 tons of tar - which cannot be restored for decades, if at all.... since 1997, its strategy is spelled out in a single phrase: "The key to lowering costs is to change the rules of the game," it reads.
The best way to achieve this is to have an ally in the state house. In this case, it was a governor who surrendered to the will of campaign contributors, sold out his people, and had the gall to call it victory."
Marin IJ Editorial: Expansion of marine sanctuaries a victory for the environment (Marin Independent Journal [CA], 03/19/15)
"Oil and gas exploration will now be banned not just off the Marin coast, in an area encompassing the Farallon Islands, but now also north along Sonoma and Mendocino counties’ coastlines to just above Point Arena.
That protects a rich feeding area for 25 threatened and endangered species, including blue whales and humpback whales, northern fur seals and leatherback turtles. The area is home to a third of the world’s whales and dolphins, more than 163 species of birds and more than 300 species of fish."
End wait for strong plan to protect water quality: Editorial (Orlando Sentinel [FL] , 03/18/15)
"Discharges of water polluted by fertilizer and urban runoff from Lake Okeechobee have spawned toxic algae blooms in other waterways, with disastrous consequences. In 2013, scores of manatees and dolphins and hundreds of pelicans died in the Indian River Lagoon.... The Legislature needs to pass a strong bill — this year — to improve water quality. Floridians have waited too long."
EDITORIAL: The Record: No 'green' in Trenton (Record [NJ] , 03/18/15)
"The state's pending settlement with Exxon would award New Jersey $225 million, a far cry from the $8.9 billion it sought from the company for polluting acres of wetlands near its refineries in Bayonne and Linden. No one gets all that they seek in lawsuits, but to settle for $225 million — less than 3 percent of the initial demand — would be a very bad deal for New Jersey."
Now In Charge, Senate Republicans Slow To Move Forward With Obama's Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 03/18/15)
"Republicans haven't confirmed a single one of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees since taking control of the Senate in January. In total, there are 16 judicial nominees waiting in the Senate. Nine of them haven't moved at all since being nominated in early January or early February. Five have made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have been waiting weeks for a floor vote. The remaining two had hearings last week, but the committee hasn't scheduled any votes yet.
There's a particular urgency to confirming some of these nominees. Eight are slated to fill empty seats on courts that are facing "judicial emergencies,"... By this point in Bush's seventh year in the White House, Democrats had confirmed 13 of his judicial nominees."
Down one judge and deserving another (NC Policy Watch, 03/18/15)
"The federal courts in eastern North Carolina have been operating under a state of judicial emergency for years now, though you wouldn’t know it given the lack of a sense of urgency exhibited by the state’s United States senators.
Down a judge since December 2005, the courts in this largely rural part of the state have managed one of the heavier district caseloads in the country ... The Eastern District has a good case for an additional judgeship, given caseload numbers already on the higher end, even if the vacancy is filled."
Editorial: Nature's best is in our own backyard (Victoria Advocate [TX], 03/18/15)
"In a USA Today reader's choice poll, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is among 20 contenders in the running to be named the Best National Wildlife Refuge in the country.... Today, visitors from throughout the world swoop into the Crossroads to see one of the refuge's focal points - the whooping crane.
People can also visit Matagorda Island, which is part of the wildlife refuge and showcases Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles and other species - both endangered and not.... It's not often we can say we have one of the nation's best, so let's embrace that."
Editorial: Silence won't counter climate change (Pocono Record [PA] , 03/16/15)
"Climate science is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Scientific findings ought to be a starting point for creating sound policy, using a process that encourages bipartisan discussion."