We’re About To Find Out How The Supreme Court Feels About The Clean Water Act

The United States Supreme Court leans conservative — and is in danger of becoming even more strongly conservative soon thanks to a health scare by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One of the most pressing environmental issues of our times concerns the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court will hear arguments over one Hawaii county’s apparent accidental disregard for laws regarding wastewater discharge.

The issue stems from Maui’s policy of discharging treated wastewater underground instead of the ocean, like many other municipalities. While this is an atypical solution, it’s actually considered environmentally more sound that doing what most governments do — which is discharge treated wastewater directly into the ocean.

The problem is, environmental protection groups have accused Maui’s government of accidentally disregarding the Clean Water Act’s policy that requires municipalities to apply for a permit to discharge wastewater into the ocean — all because some of Maui’s wastewater ended up there anyway.

This was discovered when the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources determined that coral reefs in the region were dying at a historically fast pace. 

Hawaii Public Radio’s Ryan Finnerty said, “The Environmental Protection Agency eventually commissioned a study to find out if there was a physical link between the injection wells and the ocean. University of Hawai’i geologist Craig Glenn used colored dye to track where wastewater from the injection wells was going. He said the results were conclusive.”

The Trump administration recognizes that the discharge ended up in the ocean by accident, and no one is presenting evidence of a coverup. That’s why the Trump administration is supporting Maui County in the lawsuit that was presented to the Supreme Court earlier this month. But the Trump administration is a lot softer on pollution than basically any other presidential administration in history, and opponents have been quick to point that out.

Finnerty said, “Environmentalists say discharging pollution into groundwater is exploiting a loophole and not what Congress originally intended. But if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Maui County, that loophole could become law.”

He continued, “Hannah Bernard and other environmentalists [have already] … won twice in federal court, but in a similar case from Kentucky, a different appeals court disagreed. The Trump administration is backing Maui County in this case — a reversal from the Obama-era EPA. 

“It’s a part of a broader effort to limit federal water protections in favor of state control. David Henkin, an attorney representing the Maui plaintiffs, says the Trump administration’s stance on groundwater pollution is a departure from longstanding policy.”

If Brexit Finally Moves Forward, What Does That Mean For Environmental Law?

According to the Irish government, the Brexit fiasco could give the powers that be greater authority to effect new environmental law — or to disregard old ones. Commentators insist that Brexit won’t have these kind of catastrophic fear-mongering effects and that, for the most part, it will be business as usual once all is said and done. But that’s not necessarily true. 

The Good Friday Agreement promotes cooperation between the north and south, especially in the area of cooperation to protect important environmental locations from damage. The European Union provided the framework for this agreement, and without the former, the latter might fall apart as well.

Waterways Ireland and Loughs Agency remain dedicated to protecting their islands from those who might pollute them. 

Exiting the European Union would effectively dismantle all the regulations and agreements made through it. Not only that, but future funding efforts might be crushed. Part of the new Brexit agreement enables a “level playing field” that would force the United Kingdom to keep the old regulations in place, but it’s no surprise that opponents of Brexit and the unseen future consequences are worried how this will all play out. Without a specific trade deal, there’s no legal obligation.

The United Kingdom released a statement on the new Brexit agreement:

“The Union and UK are determined to work together to safeguard the rules-based international order, the rule of law and promotion of democracy, and high standards of free and fair trade and workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protection, and cooperation against internal and external threats to their values and interests.

“The parties will retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity according to the levels of protection each deems appropriate in order to achieve legitimate public policy objectives such as public health, animal health and welfare, social services, public education, safety, the environment including climate change, public morals, social or consumer protection, privacy and data protection, and promotion and protection of cultural diversity.”

As you can see, more is at stake than just the environment of countries within the UK.

Part of the agreement is dedicated to maintaining proper fishing standards to ensure continued sustainability of our oceans well into the future.

But there are also big question marks. That’s because there’s no actual legal framework in place to govern anything that happens after Brexit. There are only promises. Citizens of the UK are cautiously optimistic that those promises will be upheld by the politicians in power — but many who don’t support Prime Minister Boris Johnson know that anything is possible these days.

Trump Administration Accuses California Of Relaxed Environmental Regulation While Gutting The State’s Ability To Set Its Own

If you listen to the Trump administration, San Francisco is a very dirty city — very dirty — and you might step on a used syringe if you go walking on the beach. Where did it come from, you ask? Probably some addict, if we’re to believe the incumbent president. Because so many homeless citizens of the United States seem to like California sun, San Francisco is looking at an environmental violation.

Trump also says that homeless fecal matter is a threat to the Clean Water Act. 

Of course, readers should take the attacks on San Francisco cleanliness with a grain of salt — as anyone who has visited in recent years will know it’s hardly the dirtiest city in the country. Trump’s attacks are much more likely a symptom of California’s barrage of lawsuits against the obviously corrupt administration. California won’t put up with Trump tactics, and Trump can’t help but fire back — no matter how ridiculous the counterattack seems.

The San Francisco exchanges are occurring at almost exactly the same time as Trump’s revocation of California’s right to set its own air pollution standards for new vehicles. California wants to enforce stricter standards to help clean up the environment. Does Trump hate the environment? Could it be more a matter of helping out coal and oil companies, which funnel tons of cash into his election campaigns? Or could it just be about cracking down on yet another Obama-era policy?

It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

Perhaps it’s of little surprise that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is headed by someone who doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, isn’t commenting on the most recent environmental struggle between Trump and California. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made it obvious in a speech delivered to the National Automobile Dealers Association, though:

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said. 

Right, because that’s what this is about: state’s rights vs. federal rights. 13 states, including the District of Columbia, are on board with whatever California decides to do when enforcing the tighter regulations, regardless of what the federal government says, and it won’t be a surprise to anyone if the rest of the states fall in line as well. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “While the White House has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming, California has stepped up. It’s a move that could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe, if California were to roll over. But we will not.”

The fight continues.

Is The Trump Administration Violating Environmental Laws To Build A Border Wall?

It’s no secret that the Trump Administration has been routinely accused of bending or breaking a multitude of laws during its short existence. Considering how important the environment is to the future — not only of our species, but also of our economy — many have questioned whether or not Trump has the interests of the environment at heart when trying to find a way to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

It was recently reported that Trump once offered to pardon anyone arrested for breaking laws to build the wall. Naturally, he backtracked by saying he was only joking. Whenever he’s accused of corruption, he’s only joking. It’s a Trump thing. He “jokes” almost every day.

It’s a scary situation for a few reasons: no matter how many laws the Trump Administration ignores, the courts seem increasingly okay with letting him have his way. Even though he publicly admitted there was no real need to call a national emergency to build his border wall, that’s exactly what he ended up doing when Congress refused to allocate the funds — and then when those same actions led to a new round of lawsuits, the courts gave him a pass. 

Why is this so disturbing?

The entire point of having three branches of government is so that one can check the others. This system of checks and balances is at its breaking point when the president can ask for money from the legislative branch, which then fulfills its purpose by denying it before the judiciary branch inevitably sides with the president — literally giving one man who flouts the law all the power. That’s somewhat dangerous since Trump was already the most powerful man in the world.

What else is Trump accused of doing?

When he told members of his staff that they would have a presidential pardon should they break the law, he promoted the idea that they should, according to The Washington Post: “Fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land, and disregard environmental rules.” 

One of the reasons the wall is so detested among environmentalists is because animals tend to, you know, move around. Building such a structure prevents them from moving from one habitat to the next when they need to, which puts a lot of stress on already endangered species living in the area.  

Did the Trump Administration take any of this into consideration before moving along with plans? Of course not. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now headed by a guy who doesn’t believe in climate change, and even coal and oil companies are blasting the now-defunct EPA for loosening regulations that could lead to fast-tracked man-made climate change.

No one is happy.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Deemed Irresponsible By Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals

Dominion and Duke Energy requested a Fish and Wildlife permit in order to construct an Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee sued alongside the Southern Environmental Law Center because the requested permit would do little or nothing in order to protect potentially endangered species whose habitat is along the planned pipeline path. The permit was eventually struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The pipeline had actually been in the process of being constructed when the lawsuit forced builders to stop or face additional legal action. The pipeline would be built through national forests, where wildlife and endangered habits are both protected. Its owners even wanted the project to intersect with the Appalachian Trail.

This is a major hurdle for the pipeline’s owners because it was supposed to be completed years ago — and for several billion dollars less. It is possible that permit holders will find no feasible path forward to complete construction, which remains stalled even now.

An attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, Patrick Hunter, said: “In its rush to help this pipeline company, the agency failed to protect species on the brink of extinction — its most important duty. This pipeline would blast through some of the last populations of these rare animals.”

One of the major criticisms of the pipeline is the lack of necessity at a time when the environment is under attack from all sides. The construction is only necessary to increase its owners’ revenue, which is not an acceptable reason to destroy endangered wildlife or their habitats.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has started to aggregate data into a large database to figure out how many pipeline projects are currently underway. The database includes pipelines for oil, petroleum, and hydrocarbon gas liquids. This increased rate of domestic production — at a time when worldwide productivity is on a historic decline — has resulted in a surprising demand for new projects because it threw a wrench into aging patterns of supply and demand in the Gulf.

The database will make transparent a number of statistics about these projects, including where and when they begin, their expected productivity, how many miles of pipeline will be laid, and their potential effects. In the south, at least nine new projects for crude oil are expected to be completed from 2019 to 2021. 

The EIA is expected to perform system updates for this database twice annually.

New Climate Disaster Unfolding: Is There Anything We Can Do Now?

One of the reasons there are so many climate change naysayers is simple: most of us don’t really understand what makes science…science. When a new study was published saying a beer a day might actually be good for you, the media jumps all over it — but not in a bad way. Everyone uses it as an excuse to drink another beer every once in a while. And why not? Apparently science says the beer might be good for you!

But that’s not the way science really works.

After a study like that is published, scientists around the world will inevitably tear it to shreds — because, remember, the point of science is to remain skeptical — by pointing out a study’s many flaws. Eventually someone else will conduct another study with fewer flaws. If the study confirms the findings of the first flawed study, then great. If not, well then that’s great too. 

Eventually a number of studies on a given subject will have been conducted, and there will be a general consensus among them about a given conclusion that someone once hypothesized (or one that someone didn’t). That’s science. Science doesn’t reflect a single study. It reflects a wealth of studies, which eventually give us an idea of how something works.

The inclination toward buzz-worthy headlines is why so many people distrust science. Eventually the buzz-worthy headline is overturned by the next study, and people always tend to ask themselves why they should believe anything science says when apparently it’s always flipping back and forth. It isn’t, but we trust what we see (ironically the definition of science) and we see science flip flopping (even though it really doesn’t) because the media showcases it that way.

The science of climate change tells us with overwhelming certainty — based on literally thousands of studies — that humans are responsible for everything that is happening to this planet, and everything that will happen in the next few decades. And we mean that when we say that: “few decades.” This is happening right now, and it’s happening fast. We know this. It isn’t up for debate.

What’s worse, there’s an obvious trend with each new collection of studies published: it’s always a lot worse than we thought it was. Scientists have only recently discovered that the permafrost in Arctic Canada is melting ahead of schedule by a devastating seventy years. That’s big news, but of course no one believes science, so who can even say how much difference it might make in forging new policy here or abroad? Probably not much at all.

We have a president and vice president who continually denounce the conclusions about climate change studies conducted by their own administration, arguing that we’re at least doing something and asking why we should be doing more when countries like China are doing absolutely nothing. Pence recently made this point, but we guess no one informed him that China is actually leading the pack in almost all renewable growth and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. And people believe him, because, well, they just do. It doesn’t matter that China is doing more than anyone else. It never did.

So what do we do now? We fight like hell, because what else can we do?

How Countries Are Passing Legislation Regarding Climate Change

While there is a fundamental need to cut down our carbon footprint, many countries all over the world have started to pass laws to help the environment. These laws range from protecting insects to decreasing the use of plastic to limiting the use of cars.

For a while, we have been hearing about saving the bees. This is because bees pollinate plants that make up a large portion of our food supply. Currently, the European Union has banned three pesticides that are known as being harmful to bees. France banned five pesticides. France also helps the environment by forcing grocery stores and supermarkets to donate leftover food products to those in need.

According to this article, approximately one garbage truck full of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute. To cut down on pollution, many countries are banning what is known as “single-use plastic.” This includes items such as bags, bottles, and packaging (things that are only used once). Nations that have banned plastic in some form include Rwanda, France, New Delhi, Jamaica, Taiwan, Morocco, and Kenya. According to the U.N., over 125 other countries are also working towards banning plastic use.

Kenya’s ban on plastic is one of the strictest laws that has gone into effect. Anyone who is found to be selling, manufacturing, or carrying will have serious penalties including a fine up to $38,000 and four years in prison.

Small towns in Switzerland and a few islands in Croatia are doing their part to protect the environment by banning the use of cars. While even busy cities like New York City have areas that are for pedestrians only, these places are completely car-free. Beijing, China bans cars once a week and saw that they had a 9% decrease in carbon emissions.

For more information about environmental law, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our attorneys.

Kids Are Suing The U.S. Government Because Of Trump’s Climate Change Stance

A group of kids whose lives have been–or will be–greatly affected by a global rise in temperatures are taking advantage of their right to fight the U.S. stance on climate change. Or Trump’s stance, rather.

17-year-old Nathan Baring is an Alaska native. Once upon a time, he could enjoy cold weather activities as early as August. Now he normally has to wait until November, much like the rest of the country. He blames rising temperatures for the change, and he’s willing to take the U.S. government to court because they’re not doing enough to protect his beloved way of life.

9-year-old Levi Draheim is facing a different crisis: one that hasn’t happened yet, but almost certainly will. By the time he is 42 years old, it is expected that climate change-fueled rising water will submerge his current home on an island off of Florida’s Atlantic coast. He too takes the matter seriously enough to hold the government responsible for its inaction.

These two children are fighting alongside nineteen others in order to take the U.S. government to task, claiming it has the responsibility to protect its citizens from the effects of climate change instead of making policy that makes it more likely to threaten the welfare of future generations.

Scientists believe that summer Arctic sea ice will vanish by 2050. Temperatures could rise up to four degrees Fahrenheit. The effects will be felt everywhere, not just in the north. The remaining rainforests could face additional devastation, wreaking even more global havoc and increasing the opportunity for freak weather events already on the rise.

The lawsuit levied against the federal government contends that public trust doctrine was violated. This doctrine has ancient roots. It means that government can and should be held accountable for their failure to protect natural resources for public consumption. These include both land and water. Because the climate affects these resources, the government is indirectly implicated in their demise.

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has since joined the fight. He called the current climate and energy policy “at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal.” U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sided with the claim with a ruling that said our kids have a fundamental right to a stable environment, going one step further by stating how a stable climate is also necessary to maintain a free and ordered society.

Her ruling paves the way for the lawsuit to proceed as planned.

What Is Insurance Law?

Obviously insurance law deals with all types of insurance and the legal controversies and quagmires that surround it, but that doesn’t mean much all by itself. What type of legal controversies and quagmires can arise? Will you ever find yourself in one? Sometimes insurance doesn’t work as it should, and you might need to protect yourself and your loved ones. These are the various aspects of insurance law you should know.

There are three basic categories into which insurance law falls: the regulation of insurance as a business, the regulation of insurance policies and the content therein, and the regulation of how claims are handled by insurance companies.

A provision of the 2005 Gambling Act seemingly removed the insurable interest mandate in almost all common law jurisdictions. Insurable interest isn’t what it sounds like. It’s the relationship between the person who is insured and the subject of that insurance. Insurable interest was considered a requirement in order to legally enforce most insurance contracts. A failed contract is one such reason an insurance provider might find itself at court.

Have you heard of the concept of utmost good faith? It’s what any insurance contact represents.

Insurance companies are bound by the same laws as other businesses. They must follow zoning or land use regulations. They must pay their taxes. Their workers are subject to wage and hour laws. But insurance companies are also regulated by additional laws, many of which were implemented after the U.S. Supreme Court began to rule on associated laws in the 1940s.

Most states have their own administrative agencies put into place for regulating insurance, and that can make liability under the law more complicated because many insurers operate across state boundaries.

Another reason that an insurer might find itself in hot water is bankruptcy. When an insurance company files for bankruptcy, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners acts to reduce the financial hardship on both sides of those under legal contract.

The U.S. regulates insurance companies more than you might think, and policyholders are protected against claims that act on bad faith by law. All contracts have certain standards by which they must abide, and premiums are regulated so that prices stay as low as possible. If you think your insurance company is taking advantage of your situation by breaking or bending any clause of the insurance contract, then it’s time to seek the aid of legal counsel.

When Can You Sue For Personal Injury?

Personal injury can take many different forms, and it’s important you know when you can sue for personal injury versus when you can’t. Did you know that your state of emotional distress during a traumatic event is a type of personal injury? It can be compounded further if you have a physical injury on top of that. There are a number of other situations included in personal injury law. But when can you sue?

Whenever negligence is the cause of an injury, you have the right to compensation. There are many types of personal injury cases: car accidents, slips and falls, medical malpractice, defamation (when a person or organization lies about your or your business, which could cut into your financial bottom line), assault and battery, and dog bites.

Some states have no-fault rules at work that would prohibit you from suing for personal injury after a car crash. In some cases you might also be prohibited from suing when injured at your job. Some municipalities will limit the amount of compensation you can receive after an injury caused by a state employee. Negligence in these situations is why you need a personal injury attorney to navigate you through the legal mess they create.

Most workplaces have access to Workers’ Compensation, which is a pool of money for use when an employee is hurt. Depending on how bad the injury is, there may be disability payments included in the package. If you believe your employer’s negligence caused an accident which left you hurt or disabled, then you should still contact an attorney to explore your options.

When you get hurt because of a government employee’s negligence, you might need to file an injury claim with the government in order to receive any kind of compensation. Sometimes there are strict time limits on when you can do this, so work quickly. Some government employees have a type of immunity which protects them from private lawsuits.

When you get into a car accident in a no-fault state, your options are cut in half. That means you have to get compensation from your own insurance provider in the form of PIP or Personal Injury Protection. It covers lost wages and medical bills. Beware that your insurance limitations will determine how much compensation you can receive. For exceptions to this rule, contact a personal injury attorney.