Posts Tagged ‘oil industry’

Environment roundup

Sen. Whitehouse urges RICO suit against climate wrongthink

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.”

P.S. Kevin Williamson notes that if the idea of criminalizing policy differences was ever something to dismiss as an unimportant fringe position, it is no longer.

Environmental roundup

  • Plaintiffs in Michigan v. EPA, now before U.S. Supreme Court, argue that cost-no-object regulation oversteps EPA’s authority [The Economist, Ilya Shapiro on Cato’s amicus brief]
  • Apex predator? Class action firm and perennial Overlawyered favorite Hagens Berman sues Sea World demanding consumer refunds over animal handling [Orlando Sentinel, San Antonio Business Journal]
  • Privately designed and operated cities can provide answers to tough growth questions [Alex Tabarrok and Shruti Rajagopolan]
  • Following pile-on of publicity and lawsuits over formaldehyde levels in flooring, Lumber Liquidators distributes free test kits to consumers, gets sued over that too [Bloomberg, related]
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission won’t charge men who posted Facebook video of their hang-out with an apparently injured Great Horned Owl, but feds might [Lowering the Bar]
  • Urban markets often blocked from providing supply of affordable housing [Adam Hengels, Market Urbanism] “Minimum parking requirements in the planning profession are closely analogous to bloodletting in the medical profession.” [Donald Shoup via Tabarrok]
  • In Louisiana, legacy lawsuits over past oil and gas drilling roil Plaquemines Parish [WWL]

Federal judge dismisses Louisiana levee boards’ erosion suit

U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown has dismissed a “lawsuit filed in 2013 by a Louisiana flood board that sought damages — potentially in the billions of dollars — from scores of oil, gas and pipeline companies over erosion of the state’s fragile coast.” The judge ruled that federal and state laws did not provide any basis for the suit. The suit had provoked a furor in the state, with opponents of the suit arguing that political authorities in the state had authorized and indeed invited and encouraged the sorts of energy development being sued over. An appeal is expected. [Associated Press; New Orleans Advocate; earlier here, here, here, here, etc.]

Big plans foiled in New Mexico

County in New Mexico purports to ban oil/gas extraction, assign legal rights to rivers, wetlands and other natural features, declare all water a public trust, create an enforceable legal right to a “sustainable energy future,” strip corporations of various current constitutional rights, and make the whole thing self-executing against private parties. Federal court: uh, no, guys [Eugene Volokh on decision in Swepi, LP v. Mora County, striking down ordinance on various grounds including Supremacy Clause, First and Fifth Amendments.]

Environmental and property rights roundup

September 26 roundup

  • Was California workers’ comp claim against NFL by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer-turned-P.I.-lawyer inconsistent with his mixed martial arts prowess? [Tampa Bay Times, Lakeland Ledger, earlier and more on California workers’ comp and professional football]
  • Salt Lake City’s $6,500 stings: “Secret Shopper Hired to Punish Lyft & Uber Actually Prefers Them” [Connor Boyack, Libertas Institute]
  • Are libertarians undermining public accommodations law? (If only.) [Stanford Law Review, Samuel Bagenstos and Richard Epstein via Paul Horwitz]
  • Why NYC is losing its last bed and breakfasts [Crain’s New York via @vpostrel]
  • U.S. continues foolish policy of restricting crude oil and gas exports, time for that to change [David Henderson first and second posts]
  • So it seems the New York Times is now committed to the theory that Toyotas show mechanical unintended acceleration;
  • OK, the future Kansas politician was at the strip club strictly on attorney business when the police arrived. Was he billing? [Politico]