My Thoughts Today: Judges and the Environment
December 10, 2002, 1:00am

If environmental protection, reproductive choice and protection of
our civil liberties were not enough reasons to care about the judicial
appointment process, yesterday we were given one more lesson …

In a case
that highlights the layers of conflicts of interest inherent in
the Bush administration, Judge John Bates, appointed by President
to the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia,
ruled that the General Accounting Office, the Congressional investigative
arm, does not have the right to access information about Vice President
Dick Cheney’s secret meetings that formulated the president’s energy
plan. We already know that the energy plan, which called for expanding
oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory barriers
to build nuclear power plants, came directly out of conversations
with leading officials in the energy and oil industries, including
representatives of Enron. What was said at those secret meetings,
however, we may now never know.

This ruling
is a clear effort on the part of a Bush judicial appointee to protect
the vice-president and the president from any appearance of wrong-doing.
Now that the Republicans are in control, there is little hope that,
for the next few years anyway, we can rely on our Congress to prevent
appointments of such judges who will forgo judicial fairness to
protect the president’s interests.

Judge John
Bates wrote that the lawsuit filed by the Comptroller General David
Walker on behalf of the GAO was an “unprecedented act.”
Talk about unprecedented: The ruling from the conservative Supreme
Court that unfairly gave us this president was certainly unprecedented!
And let’s look at what anti-environmental actions that president
has taken most recently:

– After
refusing to sign the Kyoto Treaty to prevent global warming, the
president now seems willing to admit that global warming may actually
exist. Well … duh! 20 years worth of scientific research isn’t
enough for him? Apparently not, for President Bush is now calling
for five more years of research into the causes of global warming
and possible responses – an obvious stalling tactic. The only
thing five more years of research will give us is more polluting
cars and power plants that contribute to the problem of global

– The
Bush administration went to court in California recently to support
a lawsuit by car companies to strike down California’s new law
that requires car companies to develop and sell zero emission
vehicles (hybrids, fuel cell and electric-powered cars). This
lawsuit shows that the Bush administration will go to any length
to defend corporate interests over environmental protection and
human health.