Environment Texas Citizen Lobby v. ExxonMobil reaffirms the age-old adage that Everything is Bigger in Texas. The facts drip with superlatives. Baytown, Texas is home to Exxon’s prized facility, the “largest petroleum and petrochemical complex in the nation.” The plaintiffs—environmental groups suing on behalf of Baytown residents—alleged Exxon committed over 16,000 violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The District Court for the Southern District of Texas ordered Exxon to pay the “largest civil penalty ever imposed in an environmental citizen suit.” Yet, the unprecedented victory was short-lived. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the order, instructing the lower court on remand to analyze whether the plaintiffs had standing for each of the 16,000 violations. Demonstrating that claims, or groups of CAA violations, met the requirements for standing was not enough; citizen-suit plaintiffs must demonstrate that each alleged violation met the requirements of Article III.
It is no secret that the chemicals present in pesticides can damage environmental and human health. Preventing this damage is why the process of registering pesticides is so crucial. In National Family Farm Coalition v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) registration of the new pesticide Enlist Duo.
Advisory committees serve vital roles in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies. At EPA, advisory committees review the scientific basis of the agency’s decision making, revise air quality standards, and advise the agency on its research program, among other functions. In 2017, EPA issued a directive titled “Strengthening and Improving Membership on EPA Federal Advisory Committees” (“Directive”). The Directive announced that EPA would no longer allow EPA grant recipients to serve on the agency’s advisory committees. This policy resulted in an apparent industry tilt on EPA scientific committees after grant-receiving academic scientists were removed and replaced with scientists with industry ties. The Directive was ultimately the subject of three separate lawsuits, all which resulted either in the Directive being struck down or in the reversal of a trial court decision in favor of EPA.
In McGirt v. Oklahoma, parties disputed sovereignty over a criminal defendant for a crime committed on contested native lands. In a groundbreaking decision, the Supreme Court held that large parts of Oklahoma fell under tribal criminal jurisdiction previously unrecognized. The ruling was widely celebrated amid growing support for indigenous land rights. Over the last few decades, the United States has seen a rebirth of the Land Back Movement, which pushes for the restoration of native land rights to tribes.