The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Friday that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) erred in finding that certain counties were meeting current federal ozone limits. The EPA was ordered to reconsider the designations of those counties under the Clean Air Act.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to establish and periodically revise National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants that are considered harmful to public health and the environment. The NAAQS then determine the highest permissible outdoor air concentrations of those pollutants.
After the EPA creates or revises a NAAQS, it must label each area in the US as “attainment,” “nonattainment,” or “unclassifiable.” Areas that meet the relevant NAAQS are marked as attainment, those that exceed the NAAQS are designated as nonattainment, and areas that cannot be measured because of a lack of existing data are considered unclassifiable. An area’s designation also determines the strictness of the region’s emission controls.
In 2015, the EPA reduced the maximum allowable ozone value and designated new areas as either attainment, nonattainment, or unclassifiable. The plaintiffs, who are environmental groups, challenged a subset of those area designations. They argued that the EPA erred in determining that many counties were meeting the federal ozone limits.
The court found that the EPA engaged in “arbitrarily disparate treatment” by treating similar counties differently. The court also found that the EPA “inadequately explained” some of the area’s designations.
Because of this determination, the court decided to remand the designations because it believed that “there is at least a realistic possibility that EPA will be able to substantiate the relevant designations on remand.” The court remanded the EPA’s designations for several counties in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit overturned a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule on tobacco warnings on Tuesday, holding that the FDA did not adequately consider whether its regulation would have an impact on the number of smokers.
The case, Cigar Associations of America v. United States Food and Drug Administration, rose over the FDA’s promulgation of regulations that require “extensive health warnings on packaging and in advertising for cigars and pipe tobacco.” The FDA issued the rule to communicate health risks associated with smoking, but the DC Court stated that it “failed to consider how the warnings would likely affect the number of smokers.”
Taking into consideration whether a regulation will increase or decrease the number of smokers is a requirement under the Tobacco Control Act. The court drew particular attention to the fact that the FDA stated that “[r]eliable evidence on the impacts of warning labels . . . on the users of cigars [and] pipe tobacco . . . does not, to our knowledge, exist.”
The lower court had granted summary judgment to the FDA, and the DC Court reversed that ruling.
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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday that it will provide $2.2 million in funding to local law enforcement agencies that are focused on community policing projects.
This funding, which is through the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS Office) Community Policing Developing (CPD) Microgrants Program, provided awards ranging from $15,090 to $100,000. There were 29 awards granted overall, distributed in 21 different states.
The funds were awarded to applicants to help local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies implement community policing strategies. Applicants had to propose projects that would advance crime fighting, community engagement, problem solving, or organizational changes to support community policing.
CPD Microgrants fund projects related to, among other things, hate crimes, human trafficking, violent crime, and youth engagement. The Narragansett Police Department in Rhode Island was awarded $99,993 to expand its response to individuals dealing with mental health issues.
COPS Office Director Phil Keith stated, “The CPD Microgrants Program is a critical resource to advance innovative community policing projects across the country. These strategic investments from the COPS Office pay huge dividends to state and local law enforcement agencies and the communities that they serve.”
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 5-4 vote that a large part of Oklahoma remains a Native American reservation, with Justice Gorsuch authoring the majority opinion.
The issue before the court was whether the eastern half of Oklahoma is a Native American reservation, which would be exempt from local and state control.
Jimcy McGirt, a Native American man who was convicted of sex crimes against a child in Oklahoma state court, went before the Court. He argued that because he is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the alleged crime took place on tribal land, he is not subject to the jurisdiction of local and state courts. Instead, he claimed to be subject to Creek Nation’s jurisdiction and federal jurisdiction.
Oklahoma argued that land must be “reserved from sale” to be considered a reservation. The Court disagreed, relying on the 1833 treaty that promised a permanent home for the Creek Nation, “so long as they shall exist as a nation, and continue to occupy the country hereby assigned to them.” An 1856 treaty later promised the Creek Nation the right of self-government.
Once a treaty establishes a reservation, only Congress can alter it. The Court found that Congress did not eliminate the reservation.
Justice Gorsuch wrote:
The federal government promised the Creek a reservation in perpetuity. Over time, Congress has diminished that reservation. It has sometimes restricted and other times expanded the Tribe’s authority. But Congress has never withdrawn the promised reservation. As a result, many of the arguments before us today follow a sadly familiar pattern.
Continuing, Justice Gorsuch claimed the pattern of unkept promises needs to end and reminded the court, “If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so.”
Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh joined. Justice Thomas also filed a separate dissent.
The Supreme Court announced its opinion in the case of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v Morrissey-Berru on Wednesday. The Court ruled in favor of the Catholic schools, shielding them from employment discrimination suits under the First Amendment’s “ministerial exception.”
The lawsuit concerned two women who filed for employment discrimination from two Californian Catholic schools after their contracts were terminated. The Catholic schools used the 2012 Supreme Court’s “ministerial exception” precedent to argue that they were protected from employment discrimination suits, in order to “protect religious freedoms.” The legal issue justices ruled on was whether the termination of Biel and Morrisey-Berru’s employment qualified as ministers under the 2012 rule.
The 7-2 ruling deciding in favor of the schools reiterated that federal employment discrimination law did not apply to teachers in religion at church-run schools. The decision thus concluded that “the constitutional language that protects religious freedom barred [employees] from suing their religious schools for employment discrimination.”