Blind Justice and Global Warming

from Wildlife Promise

2 6/27/2006 // By Larry Schweiger

Back in the days when Congress acted responsibly toward the environment, it passed the Clean Air Act to protect all American’s health and safety.

Since that day, almost all of the early heroes of the environment have either died off or left Congress. However, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts that Senator Ed Musky, Senator Richard Schweiker and so many other lawmakers wrote in 1970 and 1972 respectively, still stand as a vital legal frameworks for protecting our health and children’s future.

Ignoring the mandates under the Clean Air Act, EPA failed to take steps to cut CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions to stop global warming when it became apparent that man-made pollution is causing global warming. Recently, a coalition of a dozen states, cities and environmental groups lead by Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly (D) successfully filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to overturn a pair of divergent rulings in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the Clean Air Act does not require EPA to regulate greenhouse gases.

The US Supreme Court has now taken up the question of whether U.S. EPA failed in its duties to regulate a harmful pollutant under the Clean Air Act when it opted not to regulate the ubiquitious heat-trapping greenhouse gases from new cars and trucks.

I must say that I am not optimistic.

This court has demonstrated that it does not even attempt to understand the environment or to appreciate its beneficial role in protecting America’s health and safety. I also fear that neo-conservative ideology over the environment trumps sound judgement in the case of several appointments to the court.

The recent Supreme Court decision concerning the (section 404) wetlands provisions of the Clean Water Act is a case in point. The high court has substantially weakened our ability to protect wetlands from the developers. Wetlands serve as critical filtration systems for our nation’s surface waters and vital recharge areas for ground water systems all over America. The court decision is a little like saying, since you have a strong heart, you don’t need kidneys.

The Congress that framed the Clean Water Act understood the connections between protected wetlands and the purity of National waters. Former Senator Richard Schweiker (R) PA. for example, signed our amicus brief to the high court as a demonstration of legislative intent. Schweiker voted for the law when it was passed and fully understood why wetland protection was important. As Ronald Reagan’s vice-presidential running mate in 1976 and Reagan’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Schweiker understands that you can not have clean water without protected wetlands. Ignoring the wisdom of this great Republican servant, the Supreme Court apparently can not see the connections, even when they are so obvious.

I fear that the majority of Judges in the highest court in this land don’t get it when it comes to protecting America’s future from global warming. For the sake of our offspring, I hope I am wrong. 

We will have to wait and see.