Opinion analysis: The Justices' purpose-full reading of the Clean Water Act
Writing for SCOTUSBlog, CPR's Lisa Heinzerling discusses the Supreme Court's April 2020 ruling in a Clean Water Act case from Hawaii. The ruling requires a permit when a point source of pollution adds pollutants to navigable waters through groundwater, if the addition of pollutants is "the functional equivalent of a direct discharge" from the source into navigable waters. She writes that "Perhaps the most striking feature of Justice Stephen Breyer's opinion for the majority is its interpretive method. The opinion reads like something from a long-ago period of statutory interpretation, before statutory decisions regularly made the central meaning of complex laws turn on a single word or two and banished legislative purpose to the interpretive fringes."
Author(s): Lisa Heinzerling
Parole Hearings Should Be Resumed for Public Health
Writing for AL.com, Heather Elliott calls on the Alabama Director of the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to resume holding parole hearings amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and to do so electronically, in light of the governor's order waiving face-to-face hearing requirements. She notes that an outbreak of coronavirus in a prison setting could lead to many unnecessary deaths.
Author(s): Heather Elliott
Virus provides lessons on government, science and politics
The Pandemic and Industry Opportunism
Writing for The Regulatory Review, Rena Steinzor notes that in March 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine issued a memo offering businesses assurance that EPA would overlook certain regulatory violations for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Public interest groups roundly criticized the new policy, prompting EPA to cry "fake news."
Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Trump's EPA Uses Coronavirus Crisis to Mask Environmental Deregulation and Suspend Enforcement
Writing on ACSBlog, Joel Mintz describes the several ways that the Trump EPA has seized on the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to undercut a range of environmental protections.
Author(s): Joel Mintz
Incomprehensibility and the Law
Writing for the Regulatory Review, CPR's Wendy Wagner observes that "Meaningful communication is vital to most legal processes. So when sellers withhold key information from customers, such as high service fees on a cell phone contract, or when companies conceal key information about public health or financial risks from regulators, the law is generally swift to sanction them." So, what happens when sellers disclose information, but do it in a way that's incomprehensible to their customers, as in all those online "terms and conditions" we all click through mindlessly? Wagner has a proposal.
Author(s): Wendy Wagner
From border security to climate change, national emergency declarations raise hard questions about presidential power
"Presidential emergency powers could provide useful tools for addressing climate change, but taking this route sets an important precedent," Dan Farber writes for The Conversation. "If presidents increasingly make free use of emergency powers to achieve policy goals, this approach could become the new normal – with a serious potential for abuse of power and ill-considered decisions."
Author(s): Daniel Farber
EPA Enforcement in Distress — and More Trouble Is Brewing
Writing in The Revelator, CPR's Joel Mintz describes yet another White House effort to weaken environmental safeguards, this time by "quietly and ominously ask[ing] polluters to help identify new opportunities for deregulation."
Author(s): Joel Mintz
Argument preview: Justices to consider whether the Appalachian Trail blocks proposed natural gas pipeline
Writing in SCOTUSBlog, CPR's Noah Sachs previews the Supreme Court's upcoming argument in U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association. The cases pit a pipeline developer and the U.S. Forest Service against environmentalists fighting to preserve the Appalachian Trail.
Author(s): Noah Sachs
Trump Is Trying to Cripple the Environment and Democracy
Writing in The Hill, Robert Glicksman and Alejandro Camacho dissect the Trump administration's latest effort to enfeeble environmental protections, this time by devising new regulations intended to undercut the National Environment Policy Act.
Author(s): Robert Glicksman, Alejandro Camacho