“An end to industrial civilization, but like in a totally pro-union way.” My two cents at Ricochet on the politics of this week’s “Green New Deal” boomlet, the land of pure imagination that exists beyond trade-offs, and the likelihood of universal high-speed rail’s getting even through its preliminary litigation stages, let alone built and operating, within ten years.
My new Cato post looks at a low-profile program in which a nonprofit backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg places lawyers in state attorney generals’ offices, paying their keep, on the condition that they pursue environmental causes. We know much about this and other AG entanglements thanks to two reports by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) based on public records requests that had been strenuously resisted by the state AGs. (CEI was itself the target of a notorious subpoena engineered by AG offices.) The New York Post also takes a critical view of the program.
- Bayer seen as likely to get new trial on punitive-damages side of glyphosate/Roundup loss [Jim Christie and Ludwig Burger, Reuters, earlier]
- Supreme Court declines to review California judgment finding that long-ago advertising of lead paint created public nuisance for which makers are now financially liable [Greg Stohr/Bloomberg, Donald Kochan/Federalist Society, John Sammon/NorCal Record]
- When if ever can you get into federal court with your takings claim? Oral argument in the Knick v. Township of Scott case [Miriam Seifter/SCOTUSBlog, Gideon Kanner, Robert Thomas/Inverse Condemnation first, second, third, fourth posts]
- “Stop trying to get workers out of their cars” [Robert Poole, Jr./Reason]
- “U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Halt Teenagers’ Climate Lawsuit” [Greg Stohr/Bloomberg] “The European Court of Justice has recently ruled that ten private citizens, from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Sweden and Fiji can sue the European Union for negligence in its inaction on climate change.” [Theodore Dalrymple, Law and Liberty]
- “Trump’s EPA is having a hard time in federal court” [Jonathan Adler]
- “San Francisco Bans Straws, Cocktail Swords” [Christian Britschgi; more (funny memes proliferate)]
- Sharper distinction between legal treatment of “threatened” and “endangered” species would help species recovery efforts and line up with Congress’s intent [Jonathan Wood, PERC Reports]
- “It’s really interesting to me that the conversation around vegetarianism and the environment is so strongly centered on an assumption that every place in the world is on the limited land/surplus water plan.” [Sarah Taber Twitter thread]
- New podcast from Cato’s Libertarianism.org on eminent domain and civil forfeiture, with Tess Terrible and Trevor Burrus. More/background at Cato Daily Podcast;
- “OMG cellphone cancer coverup” piece in Guardian’s Observer “strewn with rudimentary errors and dubious inferences” [David Robert Grimes; David Gorski, Science-Based Medicine corrects piece by same authors, Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie, that ran in The Nation]
- Oh, that pro bono: despite talk of donated time, trial lawyers stand to gain 20% of proceeds should Boulder climate suit reach payday [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine, earlier]
“Reference levels” aren’t poisoning, Flint at the height of the episode had lower blood-lead incidence in children than many other communities large and small, the number of cases with lead exposure calling for therapeutic measures appears to have been zero, and so forth. “It is not possible, statistically speaking, to distinguish the increase that occurred at the height of the contamination crisis from other random variations over the previous decade.” In short, everything you know about the Flint water episode is wrong. [Hernán Gómez and Kim Dietrich, New York Times; earlier here, here, and here]
- California state agency in charge of Prop 65 enforcement seeks to effectively reverse judge’s recent ruling and exempt naturally occurring acrylamide levels in coffee from need for warning [Cal Biz Lit] Prop 65 listing mechanism requires listing of substances designated by a strictly private organization, spot the problem with that [WLF brief in Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment]
- Yes, those proposals to ban plastic straws are a test run for broader plastic prohibitions [Christian Britschgi, Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Impact on disabled users, for whom metal, bamboo, and paper substitutes often don’t work as well [Allison Shoemaker, The Takeout] Surprising facts about fishing nets [Adam Minter, Bloomberg, earlier]
- “A closely watched climate case is dismissed; Will the others survive?” [Daniel Fisher on dismissal of San Francisco, Oakland cases] Rhode Island files first state lawsuit, cheered by mass tort veteran Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) [Spencer Walrath/Energy in Depth, Mike Bastasch/Daily Caller]
- Meanwhile back in Colorado: Denver Post, Gale Norton, other voices criticize Boulder, other municipal climate suits [Rebecca Simons, Energy in Depth, earlier here and here]
- Waters of the United States: time to repeal and replace this unconstitutional rule [Jonathan Wood, The Hill, earlier on WOTUS]
- “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire”: at least nine state AG offices “are looking to hire privately funded lawyers to work on environmental litigation through a foundation founded by” nationally ambitious billionaire and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg [Mike Bastasch]
The citizen-suit provision of the Clean Water Act (CWA) “allows any individual or organization that can establish standing to bring litigation against both private parties and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” and incentivizes such suits by allowing filers to collect attorney’s fees. While some valuable enforcement actions may result, writes Marc Robertson for the Washington Legal Foundation,
it is not difficult for shakedown litigators to identify targets. One especially easy theory to advance in citizen-suit litigation is unlawful stormwater pollution. Stormwater regulations are exceedingly broad, and almost any business whose production process generates as a by-product anything that could be classified as a pollutant is vulnerable to a lawsuit. In many cases, attorneys’ fees can far exceed the damage from the alleged violations, leading companies to settle rather than litigate.
Recently, DOJ filed statements in three ongoing lawsuits that allege violations of stormwater discharge limits. … those suits are just three of more than 150 notices of violation submitted by this same law firm since 2016.
The similarly worded complaints, against industrial facilities in the Los Angeles area, alleged that pollutants at each facility washed off the property during rainstorms. While the government seldom exercises its right to intervene in citizen suits, DoJ in its three filings asked the court to examine whether the actions were truly an effective way to enforce the CWA or were serving other, less public goals. [Alfonso Lares v. Reliable Wholesale Lumber Inc. filing]
“Constant litigation, combined with years of legislation empowering unions and state agency bureaucrats to slow construction, have quadrupled the time required to build California’s water projects.” [Ed Ring, City Journal]
Meanwhile, on the national level: “It can take years to get a federal permit for a major infrastructure project. Congress has an opportunity to change that” [Philip Wallach and Nick Zaiac, Brookings]
- Cato Daily Podcast on changes in the Endangered Species Act with Jonathan Wood of the Pacific Legal Foundation and Cato’s Caleb Brown;
- In 1971 Judge J. Skelly Wright of the D.C. Circuit let loose the craziness by reading NEPA, passed a year earlier, as giving private parties the right to challenge government actions [Richard Epstein, Hoover “Defining Ideas” via John Cochrane]
- Ambassador Nikki Haley says U.S. will not support U.N. global pact on environment [Ben Evansky, Fox News]
- Recent Federalist Society audio features on Clean Water Act include Jonathan Adler and Timothy Bishop on deference and Peter Prows, Tyler Welti, Jonathan Wood, and Tony Francois on exemptions;
- Tree, tree, go away: some of what’s wrong with the California scheme to mandate solar panels on all new homes [John Cochrane]
- “The Defeat of California Senate Bill 827 and the Future of the Struggle to Curb Zoning” [Ilya Somin]