June 26, 2006

SCOTUS and the Environment

There's a great argument from the desk of the Washington Post's editorial board today on the Supreme Court's decision on the Clean Water Act. (If you want to read a good synopsis of the decision, check out the one by Linda Greenhouse). The Post's op-ed points to the danger lurking beneath the still waters of the wetlands decision. While Justice Kennedy's decision temporarily spared our water from a private sector onslaught, it cannot hide the vitriolic opinion written by Justice Scalia.The Post puts it best: "The bloc favoring a harder-line approach to environmental enforcement could be among the more dangerous features of the new Roberts Court.The reason I wanted to highlight this op-ed is because we could very well see another consequence of this dangerous feature in the upcoming decision on Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, which will decide whether or not the President of the United States has an obligation to regulate carbon dioxide to combat global warming. The Supreme Court announced today that it will take the case.Justice Stevens, who graduated from the College in 1941, wrote a scalding dissent of the same opinion. Stevens lambasted the group of four justices (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) becuase they "disregard[ed] the deference it owes the executive" as well as "its own obligation to interpret laws rather than to make them."I wonder if Stevens learned to write like that at the UofC, or if his skills were honed ripping on majority opinions for years in the Rehnquist court. I fear that censorious pen of his will be used frequently in the next few years.A postscript...One of my favorite of Stevens's dissenting opinions is from Texas v. Johnson, in which he denies that burning an American flag is protected under the First Amendment (a position with which, by the way, I vehemently disagree). For the record, I like it not just because he gives a shout out to Lincoln.