- Supreme Court should clarify whether agency has discretion to ignore any and all costs in designating Endangered Species Act habitat [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer on Cato certiorari amicus in Building Industry Association of the Bay Area v. U.S. Dept. of Commerce]
- Unanimous decision in Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes is second SCOTUS ruling this year against Environmental Protection Agency, and umpteenth blow to its reputation [Ned Mamula, Cato]
- Speaking of billionaires with vendettas against speech: Tom Steyer of San Francisco pushes New Hampshire attorney general to join probe of wrongful climate advocacy [Mike Bastasch, Daily Caller, earlier here, etc.]
- “Modern zoning would have killed off America’s dense cities”: 40% of Manhattan’s buildings couldn’t be built today because they would violate a law [New York Times, Scott Beyer/Forbes]
- And if anyone should know about tainting it’s them: United Nations human rights bureaucracy probes Flint water contamination [Associated Press]
- Anti-fossil-fuel demonstrators block rail line and the Associated Press can’t find a single critic to quote [related, Shift Washington]
- Richard Pipes: “Private Property Sets the Boundary of the State” [Istituto Bruno Leoni video via Arnold Kling and Alberto Mingardi; my 1999 review of Pipes on property]
- “‘Housing is a human right,’ says [L.A.] group founded for the sole purpose of preventing new housing from being built” [@MarketUrbanism]
- “EPA Putting Red Light on Amateur Car Racing” [Kenric Ward, Reason]
- Publicity stunts in our time: “Gov. Rick Snyder target of RICO lawsuit over Flint water crisis” [Flint Journal]
- Speaking of which: lawsuit “on behalf of the future” in Oregon federal court seeks to represent youth against the federal government and major energy companies [Eugene Register-Guard]
- Some things to expect as autonomous vehicles take over, including the freeing up of a lot of expensive stuff and space urban areas [Johnny Sanfilippo, Market Urbanism]
Billboards in Washington state urging tougher environmental regulations on farmers were funded by (if this still comes as any shock) the federal taxpayers, through a grant program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And that wasn’t disclosed, although by agency rule it was supposed to be. [Don Jenkins, Capital Press] A few months ago EPA got caught illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of its own powers on the “Waters of the United States” rule. More on advocacy funding here.
Related, from way back in 1999, “Smart Growth at the Federal Trough: EPA’s Financing of the Anti-Sprawl Movement” by Peter Samuel and Randal O’Toole, Cato Policy Analysis #361:
The federal government should not subsidize one side of a public policy debate; doing so undermines the very essence of democracy. Nor should government agencies fund nonprofit organizations that exist primarily to lobby other government agencies. Congress should shut down the federal government’s anti-sprawl lobbying activities and resist the temptation to engage in centralized social engineering.
In 2011 we wrote about the remarkable case in which Opelousas, La. plant manager Hubert Vidrine “won a rare $1.7 million verdict against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for malicious prosecution, with a judge lambasting EPA’s enforcement apparatus for ‘reckless and callous disregard’ of Vidrine’s rights.” According to a local paper’s report, a federal officer “was accused of targeting Vidrine because of his outspokenness and choosing an investigation in Louisiana to be close to a woman with whom he was having a sexual affair.” Defenders of the agency were at pains to portray it as an “unusual situation.”
Now there’s an update to report [FindLaw, h/t Institute for Justice “Short Circuits”]. The factory’s owner, Trinity Marine Products, had also been prosecuted in the case, but was not involved in Vidrine’s personal quest for justice afterward:
According to court documents, Trinity wasn’t even aware of the federal agents’ affair and its concealment until 2011 when one of Trinity’s employees read a blog post mentioning the affair and a DOJ press release giving details. Trinity promptly filed a FTCA claim in 2012.
The question was whether the company’s claim was untimely under the statute of limitations because the prosecution had been nine years earlier. A Fifth Circuit panel has now ruled that the suit can go forward under equitable principles because the government had not established that Trinity could by reasonable diligence have learned the reason for its injury earlier. FindLaw again:
The fact of the matter is this: the blog piece was only written because there was an unsealing of court documents that had detailed the motive behind the FBI agents’ lies. And since these lies were the cause of Trinity’s eventual injury (criminal indictment), no reasonable due diligence would have uncovered them.
- On the Flint water fiasco, building for many months now, multiple levels of governments have plenty to answer for [Detroit News (“Lower-level [state DEQ] officials continued to downplay severity of Flint’s drinking water problems for almost 3 more months.”), The Hill and Detroit News (EPA), earlier and on government impunity] More: David Mastio, USA Today (even after fiasco, prevailing blood-lead levels in Flint children greatly improved from ten years ago); Rob Sisson/ConserveFewell; Matt Pearce/L.A. Times.
- Background on Oregon standoff: what would a market-based federal lands grazing program look like? [Randal O’Toole, earlier on Malheur refuge occupation here, here]
- “Trying to Build a Catskills Resort Despite Mountains of Regulation” [Cori O’Connor, WSJ]
- “Next stop for Paris climate deal: the courts” [Politico] Chart overview of climate change litigation in U.S. [Arnold & Porter via Kyle White, Abnormal Use]
- “The emerging cross-ideological consensus on zoning” [Ilya Somin] “Zoning Laws Transfer Wealth in the Wrong Direction” [Noah Smith]
- Time for Supreme Court to revisit its doctrine on exhaustion of state litigation remedies in takings cases [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Pulitzer logrolling, politicization of Columbia J-school are old stories, but vendetta against Exxon adds a few new twists [Fraser Seitel, O’Dwyer, earlier]
The Washington Legal Foundation recently published a graphics project/report called “Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties” that includes sections showing concurrent changes in six areas of law: mens rea, public welfare offenses and the responsible corporate officer doctrine; EPA criminal enforcement policies; DoJ criminal prosecution policies; attorney-client privilege; deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements; and proliferation of criminal laws, and sentencing developments. Read more, including updates, here.
- Cato podcast with William Fischel on his new book Zoning Rules! The Economics of Land Use Regulation;
- If traveling with your pet skunk, avoid Tennessee [Mental Floss, “15 Surprising Animal Laws That Are Still on the Books”]
- “How Land-Use Regulation Undermines Affordable Housing” [Sanford Ikeda and Emily Washington, Mercatus via Market Urbanism] Head of Obama administration Council of Economic Advisers gives speech pinning high housing costs on land use regulation, but don’t get hopes up about policy changes quite yet [Randal O’Toole, Cato]
- Panel on role of Congress in environmental law at Federalist Society National Lawyers’ Convention with David Schoenbrod, Eric Claeys, Matt Leggett, and Nicholas Robinson, moderated by the Hon. Steven Colloton [YouTube]
- “Market urbanist” position criticized (Steve Randy Waldman) and defended (Jeff Fong);
- Mysteries of Los Angeles: drive to limit large residential developments is being led in part by… AIDS Healthcare Foundation? [L.A. Times]
- “On the misuse of environmental history to defend the EPA’s WOTUS rule” [Jonathan Adler, earlier on Waters of the United States rule]
My local paper, the Frederick News-Post, ran an editorial on Monday that 1) saw nothing especially wrong in the Environmental Protection Agency’s illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of EPA power; 2) claimed that the fuss over tax-paid lobbying was for lack of any substantive critique of EPA’s “WOTUS” (Waters of the United States) rule, although a majority of states have challenged that rule, the farm and rural landowner communities have been up in arms against it all year, and a federal appeals court has agreed to stay it.
So I wrote this letter in response, which ran today. There wasn’t space for me to dispute the FNP’s peculiar notion that to oppose the water rule as exceeding the EPA’s statutory authority is to encourage the “anti-science, climate change denial crowd,” which tends to reinforce my sense that “anti-science” and “climate denial” are turning into all-purpose epithets increasingly unhooked from any particular relationship to science or climate. (cross-posted at Free State Notes)
- Availability of Uber and Lyft at LAX airport tied up in lawsuits including one filed under CEQA, the California environmental-review law often used tactically to delay projects [Los Angeles Times]
- Twenty years after his classic contrarian article on recycling, John Tierney returns with another close look at its pros and cons [New York Times] Quit scapegoating plastic bags, they carry enough weight as it is [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason, related]
- California class action: Reynolds should have disclosed formaldehyde in vaping [Winston-Salem Journal] Authors of widely noted New England Journal of Medicine formaldehyde/vaping paper got “philanthropy to support research” from two big-league trial lawyers [NEJM paper, disclosure form, Joseph Nocera January, related April, August and recent New York Times columns, Michael Siegel]
- Federal court blocks EPA’s hotly disputed Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) rule [Jonathan Adler; National Wildlife Federation (pro-rule); Todd Gaziano and M. Reed Hopper, PLF (against), American Farm Bureau Federation (same)]
- Environmental law firm intervenes in Louisiana governor’s race to tune of $1.1 million [Greater Baton Rouge Business Report]
- Same state: “BP oil spill settlement to reimburse millions Louisiana paid to politically connected law firms” [Kyle Barnett, Louisiana Record]
- Government subsidies for rebuilding hurricane-prone areas disproportionately aid the wealthy [Chris Edwards, Cato]
- Natural experiment in greater Dallas area on whether fracking is good for local land values or not [Peter Van Doren, Cato]
- Inclusionary zoning drives up housing costs, allowing greater density would be better way to serve interests of poor [Scott Beyer] “The ‘Plan Bay Area’: Restricting Housing Development Isn’t Reform” [Jonathan Wood and Randal O’Toole, Forbes/Cato]
- “Poorly argued, destructive in intent”: Vatican’s eco-encyclical is old nonsense in green new garb [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right]
- “Lion hunters warn U.S. conservation rules could backfire” [Helen Nyambura-Mwaura, Reuters]
- California’s notorious Prop 65: any hope for reform? [Cal Biz Lit, more]
- Citizen suits and consent decrees: in New England, “Conservation Law Foundation wields tremendous power” [Peter Ubertaccio, WGBH]
- “EPA Shifts its Legally Suspect ‘Environmental Justice’ Agenda into Higher Gear” [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
- Breaking: Supreme Court rules 5-4 against EPA on Clean Air Act power plant emissions rule [CNN, Michigan v. EPA, Daniel Fisher, Andrew Grossman]