Author Archives: arbeam

The Supreme Court’s Louisiana frog ruling is based on common sense

On Tuesday, the nation’s highest court showed that simple logic in our legal system is not yet dead — or, to use the vernacular, that it hasn’t croaked.

Before Chief Justice John Roberts reached the Supreme Court, his most famous judicial opinion as a lower-court judge declared that a toad species which lives only in one state cannot be regulated as part of interstate commerce. How can it be interstate, he asked, when the question involves “a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California”?

Despite Roberts’ pithy wisdom, he was on the losing side of that 2003 ruling. But yesterday, all eight voting justices (Brett Kavanaugh did not participate) signed on to a Roberts opinion that private land in Louisiana, on which an endangered frog species has not lived for half a century, should not be regulated as if it is “critical habitat” for the species. After all, how can something be habitat for a critter that doesn’t habitate there?

In both cases, regarding both amphibious species, Roberts’ position was not just legally sound but also pure, basic, and obvious common sense. We should be heartened to see that a unanimous high court still can apply common sense amidst a foggy bog of ideologically crusading legal sophistry.

Tuesday’s case, Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, involved the Interior Department’s decision to designate some private land in St. Tammany Parish, La., as “critical habitat” for endangered species known as the “dusky gopher frog.” Today, fewer than 100 of those frogs remain, all around a single pond in neighboring Mississippi. While the Louisiana land in question once featured those frogs, it was 1965 the last time one was seen there. And although the land still features some ponds of the sort favored by this species, its vegetation long ago ceased being conducive to their survival.

Yet because Interior still insisted on designating the St. Tammany land as critical habitat, landowner Edward Poitevent was prohibited from developing his own land, costing him $33.9 million. One can understand why the designation made Poitevent hopping mad.

An outside observer might have thought this case an easy one to judge in Poitevent’s favor. But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to offer him relief, saying that the applicable law on Interior’s designation of critical habitat made such designation not subject to judicial review.

Granted, sometimes what seems obvious by common-sense analysis is negated by the actual wording of a statute. There are indeed instances in which a particular law explicitly excludes an agency’s actions from being subject to review in the court system.

But as all eight justices agreed, the Supreme Court has “long applied a strong presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action.” Exceptions to that presumption are quite “narrow,” wrote Roberts. And with a convincing explanation, he determined that those exceptions were not in play here.

Once the court determined that Interior’s designation of habitat was indeed reviewable, it managed to apply common sense. The eight justices ruled, in effect, that no amount of bureaucratese could obscure this basic reality: “Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat.”

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” was himself no lawyer, and he firmly believed the Constitution and laws were supposed to be understandable by all, not just by lawyers. “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice,” he wrote, “if the laws be so … incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck a blow for coherence. Thank goodness.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/the-supreme-courts-louisiana-frog-ruling-is-no-bull

 

 

 

 

 

EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Regulations on Clean Water

Previous administration expanded oversight to protect water quality from industrial pollution; Trump administration promised to correct overreach.

President Trump’s administration has rescinded an Obama-era policy that expanded federal oversight and the threat of steep fines for polluting the country’s smaller waterways, furthering his deregulatory efforts in the 14 months that remain before the next election.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday signed a final rule that limits the scope of federal clean-water regulations in an effort to clear up confusion for landowners whose property sits near water sources that feed into the country’s network of major rivers.

The Obama administration in 2015 had expanded federal oversight upstream, it said, to better protect wildlife and the country’s drinking-water supply from industrial runoff and pollution. Mr. Wheeler called that expansion an overreach, saying it grew to cover dry land in some cases.

Farmers, property developers, chemical manufacturers and oil-and-gas producers—some of whom are key voter groups for the 2020 election—have voiced opposition to it, with many saying it overreached by intruding on property owners’ rights.

Court battles following the Obama-era rule have led to fractured rules across the country. Amid the legal challenges, the regulation is in place only in 22 states, though the Trump administration’s decision could spark its own series of court fights.

The rule finalized on Thursday restores regulatory text that existed before the 2015 rule. Property that is no longer covered by the 1972 Clean Water Act remains protected by state rules. Major waterways, such as most rivers and lakes, were already under protection of the Clean Water Act and still will be after the rollback.

“Our revised and more precise definition will mean that farmers, property owners and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Critics of the reversal on Thursday warned that it will jeopardize citizens’ health and generate environmental cleanup costs paid for by taxpayers. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D., Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment that oversees the EPA Clean Water Act, called the move the “latest evidence of the president’s utter disregard and contempt for science.”

“Winners are corporations and polluters. Losers are families, farmers, and taxpayers,” she said in a statement.

President Trump has long promised to roll back environmental regulations he considers too restrictive. At a press conference on Thursday, Mr. Wheeler said the 2015 rule “was at the top of the list” of regulations that the president aimed to eliminate. Soon after his election, President Trump directed EPA officials to work on restoring earlier rules.

The Clean Water Act’s reach has expanded over time, including under the 2015 rule, to smaller ponds, tributaries and streams that flow only after heavy rains, Mr. Wheeler said. The expansion has meant that more landowners need to apply for permits or face steep fines.

“As the scope expands, so too does Washington’s power over private property,” Mr. Wheeler said on Thursday.

Office of Management and Budget acting Director Russ Vought said the move is part of the administration’s “effort to remove regulations that put absurd government standards on the American people.”

In recent weeks the administration has been strongly considering isolating a challenge to California authority from the rest of its new vehicle-efficiency rules. In June, EPA finalized climate rules for power plants without revising its standards for certain reviews of those plants—changes it once considered a linchpin of the policy but then promised would have to come later.

The Obama revisions gave the federal government oversight of some ditches and shallow wetlands that could carry pollution downstream, which the Obama administration estimated would improve drinking water for more than 100 million Americans.

But since that rule’s introduction, critics said it intruded on property owners’ rights and impeded economic growth.

National Association of Home Builders Chief Legal Officer James Rizzo said Thursday that the eased regulations come at an important time when the country faces a shortage of affordable housing. Roughly 25% of every dollar spent on a new U.S. home accounts for regulatory-compliance costs, he said.

“The old water rule, which sought to regulate dry land, was confusing and counterproductive,” said Jay Timmons, leader of the National Association of Manufacturers, which has been a major participant in industry’s legal challenges.

Wall Street Journal Article by  Katy Derek and Timothy Puko

 

 

 

 

Sep 26: New Location for September Dinner- Kitsap Way Family Pancake House

Our September Diner will be held at the Family Pancake House 3900 Kitsap Way, Bremerton.Our speaker is Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson. Becky was the chairman of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council Affordable Housing Task Force that just completed its work. Come out and listen to her views on this important subject.

Join us at 5 PM  Thursday September 26 at the Family Pancake House 3900 Kitsap Way, Bremerton.  For more information call Pat Ryan at (360) 692-4750 pat.ryan58@comcast.net

Aug 29: KAPO Dinner Speaker Robert Gelder Kitsap County Commissioner

Commissioner Robert Gelder

Our August Diner Speaker is County Commissioner Robert Gelder. Commissioner Gelders ‘s priorities include efficient and effective government in the current economy – maintaining Kitsap’s quality of life and promoting business vitality – advocating for our most vulnerable residents and veterans – and keeping Kitsap safe – and, above all, service.

Come out and learn about  Commissioner Gelder’s plan for the future, transportation needs and Vision 2050. Join us at 5 PM  Thursday August 29 at the Bremerton Dennys 5004 Kitsap Way, Bremerton.  For more information call Pat Ryan at (360) 692-4750 pat.ryan58@comcast.net

This will be our last meeting at Dennys. The September meeting will be at the Kitsap Way Family Pancake House 3900 Kitsap Way.

Aug 13: Bremerton East Side Employment Center Workshop

You are invited to the City of Bremerton’s Visioning Workshop for the Eastside Employment Center. With Harrison Hospital leaving this area, what will this area become? Help create that vision!
DATE: August 13, 2019 from 5 to 7pm
Location: Sheridan Park Community Center (680 Lebo Blvd)
A short presentation and then interactive sessions will start at 5PM. City of Bremerton Staff will be on hand to help answer questions and this will be a family friendly event with activities for all age groups.
If you want to see more information, please visit the City’s website on this topic: http://www.bremertonwa.gov/1144/Eastside-Employment-Center
Any questions or comments prior to the meeting? Please contact me.
Allison Satter
Senior Planner
City of Bremerton | 345 6th Street | Bremerton, WA 98337
Physical Location: Suite 600 | Mailing: Suite 100
(360) 473-5845

Puget Sound Regional Council Rolls out Vision 2050 Draft for Public Review

Share your values about the Puget Sound region and give input on future growth strategies at a Kitsap workshop and open house Aug. 15 in Port Orchard.

By 2050, the central Puget Sound region will be home to nearly 6 million people – a 40 percent jump from today. The Puget Sound Regional Council’s VISION 2050 is the guide for how this growth can support thriving communities, a strong economy, and healthy environment. Input from Kitsap County citizens is sought during a facilitated workshop 3 to 5 p.m. and drop-in open house 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15 in the Kitsap County Commissioners Chambers, 619 Division Street, Port Orchard.

The workshop includes a brief overview of VISION 2050 and small group facilitated discussions focused on key policy areas. The open house follows with PSRC staff giving a brief presentation on the draft from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. with the remaining time open for questions and reviewing key components at your own pace. Continue reading

PSRC Vision 2050 Draft Overview

Introduction & Overview: The Region’s Vision for 2050

The central Puget Sound region provides exceptional quality of life, opportunity for all, connected communities, a spectacular natural environment, and an innovative, thriving economy.

Read the Introduction

Download the Draft PSRC Vision for 2050 Document

Continue reading