The Judicial Branch and the Environmental Protection Agency

For many observers the low water mark in recent judicial history was the case Bush v. Gore in which the Supreme Court inserted intelf into state election procedures without any precedent whatsoever, dictated the outcome and stated that its decision should not be given value as precedent. In so doing it handed Florida’s electoral votes to Bush, which gave him the election. As it turned out Gore had in fact taken Florida and Gore garnered more votes nationally than Bush. The Supreme Court’s action in giving the election to Bush was so much at odds with tradition and established precedent that at least one national commentator called it treasonous.

In at least one area the federal courts have demonstrated their independence from the administration. The efforts to change the E.P.A. from watchdog into advocate for polluters have been frustrated by the courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the E.P.A. to follow the law in requiring utilities to install pollution controls when power plants were upgraded. The U.S. supreme Court required the E.P.A. to start regulation green house gas emissions from automobiles. Just recently the D.C. Circuit Court admonished the E.P.A. to require reductions in mercury emissions from coal-powered power plants.

But for the role of these federal courts, which include Bush appointees, the administration would have effectively converted the role of the E.P.A. from policing industry’s compliance with federal environmental law to shielding it from those laws. Certainly during the last seven years the E.P.A. has been compromised but hopefully it will soon be regenerated.

The Judicial Branch and the Environmental Protection Agency

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