By Glynn Wilson –
The death of conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, may be the best thing to happen for the future of the planet than anything since the national Sierra Club and 350.org convinced President Obama to take on climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels in his second term.
Scalia was found dead in a West Texas luxury resort over the weekend, leaving a vacancy on the court just as a major case was about to be considered by the courts. Four days before his death, he voted with the other conservative members of the Supreme Court to put a stay on implementation of the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Power Plan, while it makes its way through the appeals courts.
The rule is designed to lower carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels, and the rule is considered an important tool for the U.S. to meet the emissions reduction target pledge it made at the Paris climate talks back in December.
The regulation was challenged by 27 states, along with polluting industry advocacy groups, in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Supreme Court could be asked to weigh in again on the case later this year after oral arguments are heard June 2.
Without Scalia on the court, the conservative members no longer have a solid majority, and the sudden shift should give a boost to the supporters of lowering the emission of heat trapping green house gases from power plants through federal regulations.
Environmental lawyers involved in the litigation who support the regulation told Reuters on Monday that even before Scalia’s death they had been hopeful the Supreme Court would ultimately uphold it upon close consideration. But they said the change in the high court bolsters the rule’s chances.
“Last week, the Clean Power Plan was basically dead,” Brian Potts, a lawyer with the Foley and Lardner law firm who represents companies on environmental regulatory issues, told Reuters. “But with Scalia’s death, everything has changed.”
In January, a three-judge panel unanimously rejected a request for a stay on implementation of the rule, but the Supreme Court granted that stay last week, putting the administration’s plan on hold.
The randomly-drawn appeals court panel is viewed by lawyers on both sides as relatively favorable for the administration, featuring two Democratic appointees and one Republican. One of the Democratic appointees is Sri Srinivasan, a judge many legal experts see as a leading candidate for President Barack Obama to nominate to replace Scalia. But if Srinivasan were appointed, he would have to step aside on the Clean Power Plan case because of his involvement in the case at the appellate level. That would increase the chances of a 4-4 split.
Some Republicans have said Obama should not appoint a successor, leaving it to the next president, who would take office in January 2016. But President Obama has said he plans to announce a nomination soon. He may well face a partisan battle to win confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate, but many Democrats are already rallying people to his side.
Only a few hours after Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly died this past weekend, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the vacancy on the Supreme Court shouldn’t be filled until the next President is sworn in next January, according to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Vice President in 2016.
“Senator McConnell said the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. He’s right – and, in fact, they did – when President Barack Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes,” Warren said.
“Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says ‘…except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic President,'” she said. “President Obama is still the President of the United States.”
If some Senators don’t like the person that President Obama nominates, they can make their case to the American people and vote no, she said.
“But it would be arrogant and irresponsible for Senate Republicans to preemptively paralyze the nomination process laid out by our Constitution – before President Obama even announces a nominee – simply because they don’t like the guy who was elected to do the nominating. Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself. It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that – empty talk.”
According to The Washington Post, conspiracy theories swirl around the death of Antonin Scalia.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.