Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court reinstates a rule restricting states’ ability to deny projects that may cause pollution, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- In a 53-47 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Jackson, who will replace Justice Stephen Breyer upon his retirement at the end of the current term, is the first Black woman to achieve appointment to the Court in United States history. All fifty Democratic senators, as well as Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), voted to confirm Judge Jackson. The Biden Administration lauded Judge Jackson as “one of our nation’s brightest legal minds” and commented that she “has an unusual breadth of experience in our legal system, giving her the perspective to be an exceptional Justice.”
- The Supreme Court reinstated a previously vacated Trump Administration rule that restricts the ability of states to deny permits for projects that may cause water pollution. The Court sided with eight states and interest groups who claimed the judge who vacated the rule lacked authority to do so, but the Court did not provide any reasoning for the reinstatement of the rule. Justice Elena Kagan and three other justices dissented, criticizing the majority’s use of the Court’s emergency docket—otherwise known as its shadow docket—claiming the majority made a determination of the case on the merits “without full briefing and argument” and that this decision “renders the Court’s emergency docket not for emergencies at all.”
- The Oklahoma legislature approved an act that would ban abortions in all cases except medical emergencies, which the legislature defined as conditions “in which an abortion is necessary to preserve the life” of a pregnant person and “which cannot be remedied by delivery.” If the bill passes, Oklahoma lawmakers would authorize a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years for anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion in the state. Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt is expected to sign the bill into law given his previous vow to “sign every piece of pro-life legislation” that comes to his desk. ACLU of Oklahoma executive director Tamya Cox-Touré called the move “an immediate threat to our community’s health and reproductive freedom.”
- A California court ruled that the state’s board diversity law is unconstitutional. The law required each public corporation headquartered in California to include at least one member from an underrepresented community on its board, with an increasing requirement based on board size. The court reasoned that the law violated the state’s Equal Protection Clause, which guarantees that individuals are treated equally under the law, because it preferenced members of certain groups over others. At least twelve other states have advanced legislation similar to California’s board diversity law since 2020. One of the plaintiffs in this case, a conservative foundation called Judicial Watch, is currently litigating another California law that imposes a gender diversity requirement on public corporations headquartered in the state.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation announced new fuel economy standards for passenger cars and trucks being built for model years 2024-2026. The new standards require that, by 2026, the entire industry must average 49 miles per gallon, or 33 percent more miles per gallon than vehicles in 2021. The Transportation Department noted that its new standards “support the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to cut costs for American families, improve public health, combat climate change, and create and sustain good-paying jobs with a free and fair choice to join a union.”
- The Biden Administration extended the U.S. Department of Education’s pause on federal student loan repayments through August 31, 2022. The Education Department also declared that borrowers who have fallen into delinquency or default would receive a “fresh start” and be reclassified as being in “good standing.” The Education Department explained that borrowers who are delinquent can have their credit scores negatively impacted and those in default can have their wages garnished by the government.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to reduce people’s exposure to asbestos, a fiber that increases a person’s risk of cancer. In its rule, EPA proposed implementing new “targeted “disposal and recordkeeping requirements” for asbestos, as well as prohibiting the use of chrysotile asbestos, a chemical used in numerous products, such as brake linings. EPA stated that chrysotile asbestos is “the only known form of asbestos that’s currently imported” into the United States.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior released a five-year plan to manage wildfire risk. The Interior Department articulated that it will continue to work with tribal partners, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other federal and non-federal agencies to improve fire preparedness in high-risk areas. The Interior Department committed to “restoring fire-adapted ecosystems,” “building fire-adapted human communities,” and “responding safely and effectively to wildland fire.” Among its action steps, the Interior Department pledged to improve its fuel management programs, which strategically remove excess vegetation such as grasses, shrubs, and trees. The Interior Department explained that improving fuel management programs includes that wildfire prevention plans have clear, outcome-based objectives and are designed with local communities.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In a Brookings Institution report, William H. Frey, senior fellow with Brookings Metro, argued that state legislation focused on banning racial history and diversity lessons in schools is designed to appeal broadly to conservative voters, not to address parental concerns. Frey explained that states such as Virginia, Florida, and Texas have disparities in voter demographics, and efforts in these states to ban teaching about race are especially strong. In these states, Frey highlighted, older white voters without college degrees—the largest contingency of the Republican voter base—are concentrated in non-parent households, whereas diverse voters are more likely to reside in parent households. Frey admonished that this trend may result in generations of diverse youth who are denied important history lessons and are thereby worse positioned to address the needs of their own generation and older generations.
- The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on mitigating climate change. The report suggested that “immediate and deep emissions reductions” are necessary to maintain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—the tipping point needed to avoid drastic environmental consequences. The IPCC noted that there have been significant reductions in the costs of renewable energy and batteries and that options exist to halve emissions in all sectors by 2030. Although effective options for mitigating climate change exist, the IPCC explained that financing the energy transition is a problem for developing countries and that addressing the climate crisis will require international investment and cooperation.
- In a Center for American Progress report, Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy, and Michela Zonta, housing policy analyst, argued that Colorado’s greenhouse gas reduction legislation and transportation regulations provide a model other states should follow to reduce emissions. DeGood and Zonta explained that the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets are aggressive and bolstered by policy that supports vehicle electrification, reductions in vehicle miles traveled, and infrastructure investments that prioritize decarbonization. DeGood and Zonta concluded by both praising Colorado’s focus on environmental justice and suggesting additional efforts the state could take to decarbonize further, such as prioritizing transportation infrastructure maintenance and repairs.
- In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Jim Pauley, president and CEO of the National Fire Protection Association, argued that federal and state officials must prioritize wildfire prevention to mitigate avoidable environmental and economic harm. Pauley asserted that wildfires, like hurricanes and floods, occur in predictable patterns, so governments should focus on wildfire preparation—not response—strategies. One impactful action toward wildfire prevention is regulating where and how property is built, according to Pauley. Pauley emphasized that wildfire prevention actions are generally adopted on a voluntary basis, which does not advance natural disaster resilience as much as regulation would. Pauley urged state and local officials to embrace their responsibility to implement wildfire risk mitigation policies.