Tag Archives: lawsuit

California freeway.

Eighteen U.S states are taking the EPA to court over weakening emission regulations

A coalition of 18 U.S states is suing the current administration over “arbitrary and capricious” moves to weaken air quality regulations.

California freeway.

California freeway.
Image via Wikimedia.

Eighteen states will take representatives of the Trump administration to court. In a move championed by the golden state of California, they will fight against the administration’s revisions of Obama-era car greenhouse gas emission rules — one of his most significant measures against climate change.

“Arbitrary and capricious”

New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and California are suing the EPA and its Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Together, the states hold roughly 43% of the U.S.’s cars and are understandably angry at the EPA’s moves to weaken current car emission regulation. They aim to “set aside and hold unlawful” the newer (and weaker, compared to those adopted in 2012) fuel economy standards, which are slated to take effect in 2022.

According to The New York Times, the Trump administration said the standards were too stringent and began legal procedures to revise them. The EPA hasn’t offered any new standards, instead choosing to draft regulation that weakens existing ones post-2020. In other words, we’re not talking about a different take or a paradigm shift here — just a simple, old-fashioned cut.

The NYT explains that after executives from General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler visited the White House to request more lenient emissions rules, Trump’s administration began to try and roll back the standards. The Agency claims that the standards are “based on outdated information” and that new data suggests “the current standards may be too stringent.” For context, these standards aimed to raise efficiency requirements to about 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

The states, however, contend that the EPA acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in changing these rules, in direct opposition to their citizens’ best interests. Furthermore, they hold that the EPA under Pruitt violated the Clean Air Act and didn’t follow its own regulations.

The lawsuit comes just days after learning that the Department of Transportation is planning to propose freezing fuel economy standards at model year 2020 levels, Politico adds.

“The federal standard the states are suing to protect is estimated to reduce carbon pollution equivalent to 134 coal power plants burning for a year, and save drivers $1,650 per vehicle,” the states said.

Which, you have to admit, sounds pretty sweet. There’s something for everybody, no matter if you care about the environment or your bottom line. No matter how this plays out, we’re likely to look at a protracted legal battle as both sides seem intent to see it through to the bitter end.

“My message to the EPA and Administrator Pruitt is simple: Do your job. Regulate carbon pollution from vehicles,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We are not looking to pick a fight with the Trump administration, but we are ready for one.”

“This is about health, it’s about life and death,” adds California Gov. Jerry Brown. “I’m going to fight it with everything I can.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Historic U.S. court ruling says stable climate is a fundamental right, okays bunch of kids to sue the federal government

Children and young adults in the US are suing the government for their climate-unsustainable business practices and lack of action to address environmental problems, an unprecedented event in the American legal system. The group’s claim is supported by a recent ruling of Oregon Court Judge Ann Aiken who declared that a stable climate is a fundamental constitutional right of citizens.

Image credits Wikimedia user Daderot.

It’s been a rough week for anyone even remotely interested in environmental issues. With the nomination of Donald Trump as the future US President, efforts to contain climate change have never looked bleaker (or smoggier, I guess). Calling the issue a ‘hoax’ or the actually funny ‘a Chinese invention’, Trump makes a stark contrast to the Obama administration’s pushes for renewables, smarter energy use, and its general feistiness about environmental protection despite strong political opposition from Republicans. Word from Trump’s White House team is that the president elect is seeking an accelerated timeline for American withdrawal not only from the Paris agreement, but also from the 1992 treaty which set the groundwork for international collaboration on global warming. Here in Marrakesh, this election’s results has caused quite a stir. People are uncertain of the future, angry that one man might undo the progress of 22 international summits.

But a move in the American legal system might give a ray of hope. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of a group of 21 children and young adults suing the federal government in a case known as Juliana v. United States. She denied the Government’s motion to dismiss the case, effectively setting the groundwork for court-mandated, science-backed action to curb emission levels in the country. The case will go to trial sometime in 2017 and is likely to become a major civil rights suit handled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society,” Judge Ann Aiken said.

The plaintiffs, aged 9 to 20, say climate change violates their constitutional right to life, liberty, and prosperity by impacting or destroying public trust assets such as air, water, or shorelines. By aiming for short-term profit, convenience, and most of all the concerns of this generation over future ones — by allowing fossil fuel development or encouraging the industry through massive subsidies for example — the overall actions of the federal government worsen this impact, they say. Even worse, they accuse the government and several companies for engaging in this behavior for more than five decades, knowing full well how damaging it could become.

Kelsey Juliana, an Oregon local and lead plaintiff, says the algae blooms we’ve seen recently harm the water she needs to drink, while drought kills the wild salmon she needs for food. Colorado local and environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez claims that the increase in wildfires and extreme floods directly jeopardizes his safety. Other plaintiffs include farming families who’ve seen crops wither and fail, asthma patients, or Louisiana locals who’ve seen their homes overran by sewage in the recent floods. The suit holds that these and a host of others issues are powered in part by shifting climate patterns, and could have been prevented by a government pushing for a zero-carbon economy. By failing to act on the issue, the U.S. government has thus violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“This is going to be the trial of our lifetimes,” said 16-year-old Martinez in a statement.

Judge Aiken’s ruling is the first legal event where climate damage has been labeled unconstitutional. She agrees with the plaintiffs’ claim that the sum of federal action and inaction on the issue has “so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty”. And, given “deep” governmental resistance to change, Aiken considers that the courts have to step in as guardians of the public’s best interest. Drawing on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, she wrote:

“I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society. Just as marriage is the foundation of the family, a stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

“To hold otherwise would be to say that the Constitution affords no protection against a government’s knowing decision to poison the air its citizens breathe or the water its citizens drink.”

Change from the little ones

While it may be unpleasant to acknowledge, the U.S. is the country most responsible for global warming — some 25% of total emissions since the industrial revolution were released here. The country is also an economical, technological, and scientific powerhouse. It has always been a beacon by which other political players tailor their own actions. All this currently makes the U.S. the most well-equipped entity to make a difference on the issue of climate change.

However. With the recent nomination of Myron Ebell, a widely-touted climate denier, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency transition team, it’s likely that CO2 emissions in the country will remain flat or even increase under the Trump administration and possibly a few decades after due to his policies. As the biggest player changes sides mid-game, it’s unlikely that the world will stay under that the 2 degree Celsius warming limit agreed on in the Paris accord.

The suit is currently against President Barack Obama, as well as several parts of the executive branch. Donald Trump will automatically become a named defendant when he assumes the presidency on Jan. 20, Julia Olson, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust which helped bring the lawsuit, told the CNN. While Aiken’s ruling means that odds for governmental-backed climate action have greatly increased, the plaintiffs hope to reach a settlement with the Obama administration before the president elect assumes office. A showdown in the Supreme Court will likely end in the plaintiffs’ favor, Olson believes, but lawyers of the Trump administration will probably drag the process out as long as possible, blowing any chance of stabilizing the climate clean out of the water.

Considering the likely course governmental action is going to take in the future, this might be the single most significant court ruling in the history of the United States. Where the U.S. leads others will follow, and right now it has the means to lead astray, or true. Judge Aiken gave these kids a shot, even if tiny, at steadying the wheel — and for all our sakes, the people here at COP, those at home and abroad, even Trump’s, I hope they’ll make it on time.

Federal gov. cracking down on $40 billion (snake oil) dietary supplement industry

The FDA, Department of Justice and other government agencies, today presented the results of a yearlong sweep of dietary supplements which are thought to contain unsafe compounds. Following a slew of illnesses and law suits as a results of dietary supplement intake, the combined government effort vowed to crack down on the industry – at least the part that mislabels its products and poses a significant hazard to the population. You’d think drugs – what a lot of supplements contain – would be regulated by the FDA, but dietary supplements are entirely unregulated. This has allowed a $40 billion industry of “snake oil” products to flourish. Not anymore, everyone hopes.

pills-347609_1280

Image: Pixabay

According to the FDA, before a firm markets a dietary supplement, the firm is responsible for ensuring that:

  • the products it manufactures or distributes are safe
  • any claims made about the products are not false or misleading
  • the products comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA regulations in all other respects

Basically, a company will release a dietary supplement on the market and promise these are safe. No government able body will intrude to check such things like ingredients before these come for sale, unless complaints are received. In some cases, it might be too late. One study found 23,000 emergency room visits each year were due to dietary supplements. Most suffer from cardiovascular problem, which is no wonder considering some dietary supplements were found to contain drugs analogous to amphetamine.

In the coming months, the FDA, DOJ, Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Services, the Department of Defense, and the Anti-Doping Agency all vowed to crack down on dangerous dietary supplements. According to a FDA press release, the sweep resulted in civil injunctions and criminal actions against 117 various manufacturers and/or distributors of dietary supplements and tainted products falsely marketed as dietary supplements.

This includes a case against USPlabs LLC, the manufacturer of widely popular  workout and weight loss supplements like Jack3d and OxyElite Pro. These products contain dangerous chemicals sourced from China. USP Labs falsified shipping documents and product labels. Some of its products’ users had to go through liver transplant. USPlabs executives and employees were arrested, and FDA and IRS special agents seized assets in dozens of investment accounts, real estate in Texas, and a number of luxury and sports cars.

What’s mind boggling is that in October 2013 USPlabs was caught red handed by the FDA, which ordered the company to stop distribution of OxyElite Pro, once the product had been implicated in an outbreak of liver injuries. USPLabs promised it would stop selling the product, but instead ” engaged in a surreptitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to sell as much OxyElite Pro as it could as quickly as possible.”

“The Justice Department and its federal partners have joined forces to bringing to justice companies and individuals who profit from products that threaten consumer health,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer.  “The USPlabs case and others brought as part of this sweep illustrate alarming practices the department found—practices that must be brought to the public’s attention so consumers know the serious health risks of untested products.”

Besides USPLabs, as part of the sweep the DOJ filed a complaint against Bethel Nutritional Consulting Inc. of New York and New Jersey. The company distributed adulterated and misbranded dietary supplements and unapproved new drugs throughout the United States. Last month, a law suit filed against GNC, one of the biggest players in the industry. GNC is accused of selling products laced with two synthetic drugs, one of which is picamilon, a Russian drug used to treat migraines and brain damage.

Not all dietary supplements are hazardous or cheating, but if you still must take them, at least make sure these are safe. In the last year, the FDA has warned of more than 100 products found to contain hidden active ingredients. These products are most frequently marketed for sexual enhancement, weight lossand body building.

Man sues neighbor for irritating his ‘electromagnetic allergies’

There are weird lawsuits you can understand, and then there are just weird lawsuits. If you find this sort of things interesting, you gotta listen to this: a man from Santa Fe filed a half a million dollars trial against his neighbor for using and iPhone and other wireless devices that trigger his ‘electrocmegnetic allergies’.

Wi Fi - the new yin and yang

Wi Fi - the new yin and yang

Yahoo News reports that Arthur F., the plaintiff has been sleeping at his friends or in his car in order to avoid the electromagnetic waves created by the Wi-Fi devices from the nearby house. He allegedly suffers Electromagnetic Sensitivity, with symptoms that include “nausea, vertigo, diarrhea, ringing in the ears, severe headaches and body aches, crippling joint pains, insomnia, impaired vision, impaired muscular control”, as well as others, even worse.

Even more, he’s not alone in his battle. Apparently there’s a whole group in Santa Fe that intends to remove all Wi-Fi hot spots because people are suffering from this sort of allergy. But wait, it’s not even an allergy; they want to classify it as a disability and are claiming Americans with Disabilities Act. What’s your take on this? If you ask me, it’s just a bunch of people trying to make some fuss and money where they shouldn’t but… I may be wrong.