P.S. As several readers point out, it’s unlikely that lawyers claiming to represent the interests of future generations of Americans will be allowed into court any time soon to challenge the continued expansion of federal government debt.
- Good news: U.S. honeybee colonies hit a 20-year high [Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post “WonkBlog”; Shawn Regan, PERC]
- “News Flash: Sitting on a drilling permit for 29 years constitutes ‘unreasonable delay’” [Jonathan Adler]
- Forget it, Seattle kayakers: “Local environmental activists don’t get to make federal policy” [Aaron Renn, L.A. Times]
- Alienating some old friends, Prof. Laurence Tribe says the Constitution doesn’t just let the President make up new law on climate regulation [New York mag]
- Emily Washington on the long, failed history of progressive urban housing policies [Market Urbanism]
- Court in Netherlands orders government to reduce carbon emissions [John Dernbach, American College of Environmental Lawyers]
- If you missed the much-discussed William Saletan piece on GMOs, here it is [Slate; Jon Entine, Genetic Literacy Project]
Another step toward criminalizing advocacy: writing in the Washington Post, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) urges the U.S. Department of Justice to consider filing a racketeering suit against the oil and coal industries for having promoted wrongful thinking on climate change, with the activities of “conservative policy” groups an apparent target of the investigation as well. A trial balloon, or perhaps an effort to prepare the ground for enforcement actions already afoot?
Sen. Whitehouse cites as precedent the long legal war against the tobacco industry. When the federal government took the stance that pro-tobacco advocacy could amount to a legal offense, some of us warned tobacco wouldn’t remain the only or final target. To quote what I wrote in The Rule of Lawyers:
In a drastic step, the agreement ordered the disbanding of the tobacco industry’s former voices in public debate, the Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR), with the groups’ files to be turned over to anti-tobacco forces to pick over the once-confidential memos contained therein; furthermore, the agreement attached stringent controls to any newly formed entity that the industry might form intended to influence public discussion of tobacco. In her book on tobacco politics, Up in Smoke, University of Virginia political scientist Martha Derthick writes that these provisions were the first aspect in news reports of the settlement to catch her attention. “When did the governments in the United States get the right to abolish lobbies?” she recalls wondering. “What country am I living in?” Even widely hated interest groups had routinely been allowed to maintain vigorous lobbies and air their views freely in public debate.
By the mid-2000s, calls were being heard, especially in other countries, for making denial of climate change consensus a legally punishable offense or even a “crime against humanity,” while widely known advocate James Hansen had publicly called for show trials of fossil fuel executives. Notwithstanding the tobacco precedent, it had been widely imagined that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution might deter image-conscious officials from pursuing such attacks on their adversaries’ speech. But it has not deterred Sen. Whitehouse.
Law professor Jonathan Adler, by the way, has already pointed out that Sen. Whitehouse’s op-ed “relies on a study that doesn’t show what he (it) claims.” And Sen. Whitehouse, along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), has been investigating climate-dissent scholarship in a fishing-expedition investigation that drew a pointed rebuke from then-Cato Institute President John Allison as an “obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don’t like…. you abuse your authority when you attempt to intimidate people who don’t share your political beliefs.”
“…the Seychelles or Tonga would have worked just as well.” David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman say President Obama is using international law to advance domestic controls on the sly.
- Enviro activists unlawfully block coal ship, Massachusetts prosecutor expresses approval by dropping charges [James Taranto, Jacob Gershman/WSJ Law Blog, ABA Journal]
- Unfortunately-named Mr. Threatt charged with “robbery that happened while he was in jail” [Baltimore Sun via @amyalkon]
- “How conservative, tough-on-crime Utah reined in police militarization” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed] More: What if we needed it someday? San Diego Unified School District defends acquisition of armored vehicle [inewsource.org] And Senate hearing [AP]
- “Machine-based traffic-ticketing systems are running amok” [David Kravets, ArsTechnica]
- Thanks, Fraternal Order of Police, for protecting jobs of rogue Philadelphia cops who could cost taxpayers millions [Ed Krayewski; related earlier]
- Study: returning from 6- to 12-person juries could iron out many racial anomalies at trial [Anwar et al, Tabarrok]
- Courts can help curb overcriminalization by revitalizing rule of lenity, mens rea requirement [Steven Smith]
- California resists idea of charging market-clearing rate for water — too much like economics — and instead encourages tattling on neighbors [New York Times, Coyote]
- Academia smitten by notion of “climate reparations” [Peter Wood, Minding the Campus]
- Costly market intervention: “Minnesota doubles down on nation’s top biodiesel law” [Watchdog]
- Reusable grocery bags have their problems for sanitation and otherwise, but California contemplates banning the alternatives [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Steven Greenhut, Reason]
- Coming: film about Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case [Nick Gillespie, Ilya Somin]
- 45 years later: the famous 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga became a fable for its age [Jonathan Adler on the Cuyahoga]
- Should beachfront owners have to open their land to all comers? [NY Times “Room for Debate”]
- Plus: “EPA has no business garnishing wages without due process” [Examiner editorial, earlier]
In a complex decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down in part and upheld in part the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate large emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) [McClatchy/Federalist Society]. A key portion of the holding, writes Jonathan Adler at Volokh, is the finding that the EPA
is not permitted to rewrite the applicable statutory emission thresholds. The latter conclusion, in particular, is an important reaffirmation that agencies are not allowed to rewrite the statutes that they administer. But today’s decision was not a total loss for the EPA, however, as the Court also concluded that it was reasonable for the EPA to interpret the Act to allow for the regulation of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from sources already subject to regulation under the PSD and Title V [large stationary source] program. What this means is that large stationary sources (think big power plants and industrial boilers) that are already regulated as major stationary sources under these programs will have to control GHG emissions when they control other emissions. But sources that only emit large amounts of GHGs will not become subject to EPA’s regulatory authority under these provisions.
From my colleague Andrew Grossman at Cato:
At issue was one of the Obama Administration’s earliest efforts to skirt Congress and achieve its major policy goals unilaterally through aggressive executive action….
The Court, in a lead opinion by Justice Scalia, called it “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous.” EPA, it held, must abide by the statute: “An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.” And if such tailoring is required to avoid a plainly “absurd result” at odds with congressional intentions, then obviously there is obviously something wrong with the agency’s interpretation of the statute. To hold otherwise, the Court recognized, “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers” by allowing the executive to revise Congress’s handiwork. …
The Court’s decision may be a prelude of more to come. Since the Obama Administration issued its first round of greenhouse gas regulations, it has become even more aggressive in wielding executive power so as to circumvent the need to work with Congress on legislation. That includes recent actions on such issues as immigration, welfare reform, and drug enforcement.
Four liberal justices dissented, while Justices Alito and Thomas argued that the Scalia-led plurality were too accommodating of the EPA’s assertion of power.
If a thin-skinned academic sues a magazine for criticizing him too harshly, and you find yourself hoping the magazine will get sued into bankruptcy because you disagree with its views, you might not want to claim for yourself the honorable word liberal [Damon Linker/The Week, Stephen Carter/Bloomberg, Eugene Volokh on role of libel insurance, earlier here, here, etc.]
- Ball is rolling as Thernstrom, Kirsanow depart CRC: “U.S. National Human Rights Institution: A Bad Idea” [Steven Groves, Heritage] UN Women National Committees in US and 16 other countries advocate domestic policy change, just in case domestic pressure groups aren’t vocal enough;
- In big pickup for opponents of CRPD, the disabled-rights convention, Sen. Corker of Tennessee says he’ll oppose ratification [Josh Rogin, Daily Beast; timeline from pro-convention site; Betsy Woodruff, NRO; earlier here, etc.] Related: AMVETS pulls support.
- “Corporate war crimes begin” [James Stewart, Opinio Juris]
- “US to oppose UN climate ‘reparations’ proposal” [Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller]
- “What if Everyone Thought Congress Could Expand its Powers in Implementing Treaties?” [Duncan Hollis, Opinio Juris; earlier on Bond v. U.S. and Missouri v. Holland]
- “Kiobel Surprise: Unexpected by Scholars But Consistent with International Trends” [Eugene Kontorovich]
- U.N. agency upset that Uruguay has legalized marijuana [Jess Remington, Reason]