Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Two Environmental Cases

Such is the power of the U.S. Supreme Court that its refusal to hear a case can carry as much weight as a ruling, and two such refusals this week have enviros buzzing. One case involved the U.S. EPA’s authority to force the Tennessee Valley Authority — the nation’s largest public power producer, owner of 11 coal-fired power plants — to comply with new-source review provisions of the Clean Air Act. By refusing to hear the case, the court in effect allowed the TVA to ignore the EPA’s orders without penalty, a serious setback for the EPA, enviros, and anyone hoping for cleaner air in Tennessee and surrounding states. The other case had to do with the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to close irrigation ditches that cross its land in order to boost water needed by endangered fish species. The court’s refusal to hear the case was a de facto victory for the USFS (and the endangered species) and a defeat for local landowners.