Editorials and Opinion
Huckabee revives Faubus' idea of nullification UPDATE (Arkansas Times, 01/22/15)
Max Brantley: “I wrote yesterday about Mike Huckabee's proposition — channeling ghosts of Faubus, Wallace, Maddox and more — that states could simply refuse to obey a U.S. Supreme Court order overturning bans on same-sex marriage. The Atlantic writes further about the rise in nullification theory among far-right Republicans … Secession, anyone? UPDATE: Even the Washington Post's right-wing columnist Jennifer Rubin is pounding Huckabee on this.”
EDITORIAL: Backtracking on the Bay (Baltimore Sun, 01/22/15)
"Baltimore County has no shortage of polluted water. ... it came as a bit of surprise to hear Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz offer ... that he'd like to see the timetable for court-ordered water quality improvements delayed beyond the current 2025.... Here's the real craziness of it all: No matter who serves as this state's governor, the EPA is going to hold Maryland accountable for these violations of the Clean Water Act.... it’s not even clear whether existing state standards are sufficient to meet cleanup goals. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental advocates are already in the process of taking the Maryland Department of the Environment to court on the grounds that subdivisions aren’t meeting the requirements of existing stormwater permits and won’t do enough to reduce polluted runoff.... it's been a tough week for the Chesapeake Bay and anyone who cares about its health — or the billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs that are associated with it."
Fill judicial vacancies, including the one in Tennessee (Tennessean, 01/21/15)
Opinion by Tommy Tobin: "With more than 40 vacant seats on the federal bench, our judicial branch is under substantial strain.... One of those vacant seats is in Chattanooga, ... Travis Randall McDonough, Mayor Andy Burke’s chief of staff and counselor, has been nominated for the post.... Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, a former mayor of Chattanooga and an attorney, respectively, should recognize the contribution that McDonough could make to the bench in East Tennessee.
Even with our divided government, let’s push our politicians to govern responsibly and consider judicial nominees on their merits."
EDITORIAL: Saving the wolves (Toledo Blade [OH], 01/21/15)
"The issue has been at least temporarily resolved by a federal court ruling that wolves remain an endangered species in Michigan, and may not be hunted. But wolves — and the ecology — are endangered on Isle Royale, a 206-square mile national park in Lake Superior. There, a native wolf pack has dwindled, thanks to generations of inbreeding, to no more than nine animals. As a result, the moose population is out of control. Moose are stripping vegetation at an alarming rate and may face mass starvation. Detroit Zoo director Ron Kagan has offered his help in capturing wolf packs from the Upper Peninsula and transporting them to Isle Royale, That would be a win for all concerned. The Legislature should speedily authorize this proposal, for the benefit of both man and beasts."
EDITORIAL: Open for business? (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 01/16/15)
"A plan to sell newly preserved land for development threatens to weaken public trust in New Jersey's open-space program.... The DEP was right the first time, when it moved to preserve the land. It abuts a wildlife preserve in one of the most pristine forest tracts in the state, a prime habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern pine snake. And as an upland area, it could also help replenish the aquifer below and affect the watershed of the protected Maurice River."
Citizens deserve to have judicial vacancies filled (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/15/15)
JOHN NEUROHR letter: "On Jan. 8, the Post-Gazette editorial board wrote, “The legislators, who are paid by the public, need to do their jobs. For senators, an important part of that is to act on presidential nominations” (“Congress Returns”)....Locally, there are three long-standing Western District of Pennsylvania vacancies for which Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey should recommend nominees right away. But good nominees with bipartisan support are already waiting for confirmation. One example is U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, who has been nominated and now renominated by President Barack Obama to join the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Toomey made public his support for Judge Restrepo, saying he would be a “superb” federal judge. Sen. Casey also called Judge Restrepo an “excellent choice.” Not only is Judge Restrepo qualified, but also he brings much-needed diversity to the bench."
EDITORIAL: The Record: Eagles are staying (, 01/13/15)
"The eagles were nearly wiped out after World War II by the pesticide DDT, and, in 1982, state officials said there was only one bald eagle in New Jersey. With the use of DDT banned in the 1970s, wildlife scientists began a concerted effort to restore the state's bald eagle population.
There are now more than 100 pairs of bald eagles in New Jersey ... What a treat it is to have bald eagles living in congested and noisy northern New Jersey. The presence of Al and Alice enhances the whole area"
Editorial: Little fish could be delta’s savior (Chico Enterprise-Record [CA], 01/13/15)
"Delta smelt, though, are a marker species, the canary in the delta coal mine. When they start going away, it means the delta ecosystem is in bad shape and other species will follow. That’s what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said back in 2008. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that biological opinion Monday, agreeing with an earlier ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was challenged to the highest level.... The delta ecosystem — that includes the smelt — shouldn’t have to pay for the poor decisions of San Joaquin farmers and cities.... Nobody should be surprised by environmental restrictions. The government and the courts have long recognized that you can’t just take whatever the environment has.... San Joaquin Valley farmers who feel put off by Monday’s Supreme Court ruling should know there is some precedent. When salmon stocks dwindled in the Sacramento River system, north state farmers made many expensive improvements — things like screening canals, or changing seasonal irrigation schedules, or leaving sensitive land fallow. It has helped immensely .... The delta smelt have been listed as a threatened species since 1993. It’s not like the people complaining about the decision couldn’t see it coming. They just didn’t want to admit that they had to do their part to help a failing ecosystem."
Judicial resources (Houston Chronicle, 01/12/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias, Letter to the Editor: "Filling the protracted vacancy with highly qualified Robert Pitman will help Texas. However, Texas desperately needs to fill six more current district vacancies and two 5th Circuit present vacancies and more new judgeships. By cooperating with Democrats in 2015, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz could help fill those vacancies and pass a judgeships bill that would authorize greater judicial resources for Texas."
Grassley gets fine start on judiciary (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/11/15)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "The Register's rose to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (Jan. 4 Roses & Thistles) is correct. The new Senate Judiciary Committee chair deserves much credit for expressing his willingness to work cooperatively with Democrats and President Barack Obama on filling the many federal judicial vacancies. The vast majority of Obama nominees have easily satisfied Senator Grassley's criteria, such as competence and moderation, for appointment to the bench. Grassley's Jan. 7 issuance of a checklist of committee priorities, which includes prompt hearings for judicial nominees who did not receive them last year, is also heartening."
Wolves part of Washington’s future, heritage (Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA], 01/10/15)
Shawn Cantrell, Defenders of Wildlife: "Today, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, we have a fledgling population of an estimated 52 wolves ... over 70 percent of Washington residents support wolf recovery in the state, .... Wolves are an essential part of our landscapes – our treasured natural heritage. Wolves contribute to the overall health of the areas they inhabit, and the majority of residents cite this as the primary reason for their continued support of wolf recovery."
EDITORIAL: Emissions reporting: Drillers have the same duty as other industries (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/09/15)
"A coalition of nine environmental groups filed suit Wednesday to force the Environmental Protection Agency to add gas and oil extractors to the list of industries that must report emissions to the federal Toxic Release Inventory....In 1997, the EPA unwisely decided to exempt the industry from the emissions reporting requirement. Now, after trying for two and a half years to get the agency to change its mind, the environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to force a change....If the EPA won’t impose the reporting requirement on gas and oil extractors, the court should."
EDITORIAL: Lawsuit Is Next Step In Saving Plum Island (Hartford Courant [CT], 01/09/15)
"With Congress doing nothing to save the ecologically important Plum Island, two environmental groups are right to take the next step: suing the federal government to stop the sale of the property.... Save the Sound and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment note that Plum Island is home to a unique mix of habitats and wildlife — plants, birds, marine mammals — some of which are threatened or endangered.... Legislative action is often preferable to legal action. But it's appropriate to apply all reasonable pressure to preserve this environmental jewel for the sake of the wildlife there."
EDITORIAL: Drillers’ duty (Toledo Blade [OH], 01/09/15)
"Nine environmental groups filed suit this week to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add gas and oil extractors to the list of industries that must report emissions to the federal toxic release inventory.... after trying for 2½ years to get the agency to change its mind, the environmental groups are suing to force a change. ...If the EPA won’t impose the reporting requirement on gas and oil extractors, the court should."
EDITORIAL: Congress returns: And there may be cause for cautious optimism (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [PA], 01/08/15)
"Although many Washington political players are pondering what Americans should expect of this Congress, it can be summed up fairly simply: The legislators, who are paid by the public, need to do their jobs. For senators, an important part of that is to act on presidential nominations. It is up to Mr. Obama to propose capable professionals as judges, Cabinet heads, ambassadors and other important officials, avoiding controversial nominations that will provoke serious opposition. It is then the Senate’s duty to act quickly on the appointments."
Editorial: A push for federal court diversity No woman of color has ever been a federal judge in Minnesota (Minneapolis Star Tribune [MN], 01/06/15)
"The advisory panel’s review will be only the start of what has become in too many cases a slow, arduous and politically charged appointment process. An applicant who passes muster with the panel must still win the favor of the two senators themselves, receive Obama’s nod and then survive a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate, now controlled by Republicans. Politically motivated delays have become all too commonplace in recent years, to the detriment of smooth-running courts. They could become more prolonged with the White House and the Senate majority now at political odds. This newspaper is rooting for the appointment of a highly qualified candidate who carries little, if any, partisan baggage, and for a fair and expeditious confirmation process. And, like the Infinity Project, we’d welcome an appointment that adds to the diversity of this state’s federal court."
EDITORIAL: Protecting wetlands is worth red tape (Post and Courier [SC], 01/05/15)
"Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 raised questions about EPA jurisdiction over certain bodies of water under the Clean Water Act. The agency hopes to clear up confusion with a new rule that would more strictly delineate its authority to manage so-called intermittent streams and isolated wetlands, among other vital ecosystems....But drainage ditches and farming practices are expressly excluded from EPA regulation under both the new rule and the larger Clean Water Act. Floodplains, groundwater and stock ponds are also generally exempted. It's difficult to argue that the rule is much of an extension of EPA authority at all....And it's important to remember what the Clean Water Act defends: safe drinking water and critical natural ecosystems.... those changes acknowledge that protecting water resources in a necessity, particularly in the face of unrelenting development."
Editorial: GOP now supports judges who upend laws (News & Observer [NC], 01/05/15)
"For decades now, Republicans have used "judicial activism" as a reason to attack Democrats' judicial appointments from the White House to the state house. If a judge dared to overturn any law that was part of a conservative agenda -gay marriage bans being one recent example - then GOP members of Congress and legislatures would cry foul and label the actions "judicial activism." ... Now, the New York Times reports, guess what Republicans are counting on to help them stop or reverse some of President Obama's legislative agenda? Judicial activism!"
EDITORIAL: A rose to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (Des Moines Register [IA], 01/04/15)
"A rose to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley for a move suggesting he wants to help President Barack Obama fill vacancies in the federal judiciary rather than continue the acrimonious confirmation process when Republicans take over the Senate. Grassley's office issued a press release in December inviting lawyers interested in two openings in the federal trial courts in Iowa to submit applications to his office. ... Grassley's invitation is a good omen that he wants the Senate to act on the president's nominees. As well he should. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley will be in a position to make that happen, and he should make it happen for all states where judicial vacancies exist, not just his own."
EDITORIAL: The EPA’s move to regulate ‘coal ash’ is a step forward (Washington Post, 01/02/15)
"EPA’s latest move to regulate huge accumulations of “coal ash” is, if anything, too modest.... coal ash pits saw major spills — one in Tennessee in 2008 and one in North Carolina in 2014 — that fouled rivers and endangered people and wildlife. Environmentalists report dozens more instances of air or water contamination ...Environmental activists warn that the EPA declined to classify coal ash as hazardous waste, a designation that would have triggered stricter federal oversight. ... EPA is largely leaving enforcement to the states, which have been the only overseers before now, though private citizens and environmental groups will be able to sue to demand adherence to the rules. The regulations leave room for extremely lengthy delays"
EDITORIAL: Planet Earth, the half-empty zoo (Chicago Tribune, 01/02/15)
"[I]n the 40 years preceding 2010, the world's population of vertebrate animals — our mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians — plummeted by 52 percent.... Many people give only so much bandwidth to environmental crises that seem hopeless and out of reach. Yet the extermination of wildlife is neither. ... Each of us can support these efforts even if we can't single-handedly save what remains of the animal kingdom. We can also push our politicians"
Editorial: More ups than downs (Houston Chronicle, 01/02/15)
"(up)We're aflutter over the seemingly good news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which this week announced it will be conducting a status review of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. Texas is part of the regal butterfly's flyway when it makes it annual 3,000-mile trek from south central Mexico to Canada. The orange-and-black beauty has been under threat because of habitat loss - the agency's press release indicates the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar's sole food source, has been hit hard - and mortality due to pesticide use. Those wishing to add their voices to the issue have until March 2 to do so."
EDITORIAL: Written in feathers (Idaho Mountain Express, 01/02/15)
"A rider in the bill, which had absolutely nothing to do with keeping the government running and everything to do with lawmakers paying back influential donors and constituents, prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service from issuing rules to place sage grouse on the endangered species list. The agency was facing a court-ordered deadline of September 2015 to decide if the grouse would be placed on the endangered species list. ... What they can do is tell us where our common habitat is headed and perhaps foretell our own future if things don’t change. But the sage grouse can only tell us this if we look closely and listen. This will be helpful only if we act intelligently, boldly and soon to protect what sustains those with feathers and those without."
Editorial: Texas must stop suing, find ways to improve air quality (Longview News Journal [TX] , 01/01/15)
"Ground-level ozone can cause significant respiratory problems for children, elderly and those with lung problems.... Unfortunately, this is complicated by the fact Texas has been dead set on fighting more stringent federal air standards, with officials arguing the state itself should have jurisdiction and suing to stop tougher standards our area’s older power plants will have a tough time meeting. It’s time to change that approach. Texas needs to stop suing and start looking for ways to support the goal of clean air for Texans and its neighbors."
EDITORIAL: Florida panthers are dying out; For Florida’s state animal — the panther — 2014 was a bad year (Florida Times-Union, 12/31/14)
"This tawny feline is the most endangered of all of the state’s symbols and must be protected. ... The program that funds both overpasses and underpasses for wildlife on major highways should be expanded.... You also can help the effort to save Florida’s remaining panthers by donating to organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy, two nonprofit organizations with special panther protection programs.
We must all work to reduce panther deaths or risk losing an animal that has become synonymous with Florida."
The benefits of regulation (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 12/29/14)
Editorial writer Doug Clark: "regulatory agencies have been created and given rulemaking authority for a legitimate reason. It's that, before they existed, business and industry often profited at the expense of the public. They sold unsafe products or polluted the air and waterways with reckless abandon. We all suffered the consequences.There are still concerns today, whether the topic is coal ash storage, or fracking, or motor vehicle safety. Simply saying we've got to make the regulatory environment more friendly to business -- without considering the costs -- is irresponsible."
EDITORIAL: Six-year judicial saga finally ends (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 12/29/14)
"The Senate this month confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Robert Pitman, who has been serving as U.S. attorney for the region, to fill the bench vacated by Senior Judge Royal Furgeson in 2008.
Because of the heavy caseload in the Western District of Texas, the vacancy was classified as an emergency. Still, the dysfunctional environment in Washington led to a six-year vacancy.... the appointments process would be a lot better with less partisan gamesmanship.
And the truth is that even without any vacancies in the Western District of Texas, the state is growing rapidly and needs additional federal judges. Drug and immigration cases along the border continue to increase, and the justice system needs to keep up with the pace."