Friday, April 25, 2008

When the Courts and Executive Branch Fail, Congress Must Step In

Jenna Orkin

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in the case of Benzman vs. EPA, issued on Tuesday which, ironically, was Earth Day, gives government officials carte blanche to lie to the public and endanger their lives if competing interests such as the economy so dictate.

The court readily accepted that the defendants "disclosed information they knew to be inaccurate and that this had tragic consequences for the plaintiffs." Their conclusion, however, was that this was simply "a poor choice" rather than one that rose to the level of "conscience-shocking."

In an era when the highest echelons of government debate whether poking someone's eyes out constitutes torture, this should come as no surprise.

Nor should the other freewheeling parts of the decision which conclude that no scientifically valid testing/cleanup program needs to be performed now because the EPA has already completed an invalid one. 1

The decision does throw into question where responsibility ultimately falls since the court excuses EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman largely on the grounds that she was just obeying orders from the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Whatever the implications of this neo-Nuremberg defense, Congressman Jerrold Nadler stated Tuesday that Congress needs to do what neither the courts nor the executive branch will:"[P]ass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, authored by myself, Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Fossella, to provide medical care and compensation to thousands of Americans whose health has been compromised. The decision also makes clear that Congress needs to demand a proper test and clean up of the affected areas."

1. "Plaintiffs’ challenge to the clean-up program is rendered moot by the completion of that program. Cf. Fund for Animals, 460 F.3d at22 (Bureau of Land Management’s completed program). A completed cleanup program cannot be effectively remedied under section 706(2)because a court cannot undo a completed program. See id."

Jenna Orkin is one of the original plaintiffs in the case.


Rice Farmer said...

In another era I would have been shocked to read this. But no more. Now I just expect the courts to follow the government line and tell the Little People to bend over.

But I still reserve the right to be disgusted.

Rice Farmer said...

The continuing butter saga in Japan

The butter shortage has failed to disappear, so finally the Ministry of Agriculture asked four major butter producers to release some of their butter stocks to fill supermarkets' butter sections. It also asked them to increase butter production.

Butter producers obligingly agreed. So, problem solved, right?

Not exactly. To increase butter production, milk has to be diverted from the manufacture of cheese and other dairy products. How will the milk shortfall for those other products be covered? By increasing milk production, says the Ag Ministry and the dairy products industry.

Just one little problem: Dairy farmers are already on the ropes because of rising animal feed and energy costs. So I don't see how they can expect any significant increase in production. This also begs the question of why butter producers let this shortage develop in the first place, and did nothing until the government prodded them.

This is a textbook example of how higher energy costs cascade through the system until they get down to the consumer.

Oh, by the way, today (May 1) the gasoline tax was revived -- just as I predicted -- and to cover the tax plus subsequent increased crude procurement costs, refiners jacked up wholesale gasoline prices by about 30 yen/liter. Last night we saw lines at every gas station.