On any given day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has the power to throw the environmental movement into complete disarray.
Tucked into a nondescript neighborhood in Washington, D.C., the court isn't well known to the public, but it's often called the second most important court in the United States. It has particular significance to the environmental movement because of its exclusive jurisdiction over regulations involving vital environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
In the early stages of the modern environmental movement, great progress was made through enterprising lawsuits brought by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund to enforce the protective mandates of those landmark environmental statutes. But the challenge is different now, with judges on the bench seeking to derail, not enforce, these fundamental safeguards. How environmentalists respond to this threat could dramatically impact the success of the movement in combating 21st century environmental threats such as global warming.