Breyer’s recusal complicates outcome in environmental cases

NEW YORK (Reuters) – When the U.S. Supreme Court hears a pair of cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency today, it will do so without Justice Stephen Breyer, who has recused himself.

Breyer is a noted expert in administrative law and has tended to defer to the position of federal agencies in the past. By recusing himself, he may have deprived the EPA of an ally in two too-close-to-call challenges, which could determine how the agency handles certain logging permits.

Breyer’s absence could therefore give an advantage to environmentalists, who are challenging the EPA in the two cases.

Under long-standing EPA policy, logging companies are exempt from securing permits for stormwater runoff. In the two lawsuits, originally filed in 2006, an environmental group says runoff is a major source of urban pollution and that the Clean Water Act in fact requires permits. The Oregon state agencies and timber companies who are the defendants in the lawsuits argue that the act does not mandate permits.

The district court ruled against the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in a unanimous decision in 2011. The defendants, including the Oregon State Forester, the Oregon Board of Forestry and a group of timber companies, appealed to the Supreme Court.

Read more at Thomson Reuters. By Suhrith Parthasarathy.

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  1. 9th circuit court needs to be abloished

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