New U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Agriculture

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported earlier this week that, “Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death truly qualifies as untimely with the swing vote of the Supreme Court, the discourse between President Barack Obama and Congress, and 2016 election now in the balance. The ripple effect from the death of the conservative justice creates a political tsunami.”

Mr. Clayton pointed out that, “Agriculture will be swept up in the waves. The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Home Builders and 22 states are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear arguments in litigation against the EPA over the Chesapeake Bay rule on water pollution. Farm Bureau and others have been building to this point for six years. Litigants were expected to find out as early as this week whether justices voted to hear oral arguments. The case will now be decided by the remaining eight justices. It takes four Justices to decide to hear a case. If the Chesapeake lawsuit goes to a Supreme Court decision, a 4-4 split would basically let the lower court ruling stand. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had let stand a lower court ruling permitting EPA to impose daily pollutant restrictions.”

Meanwhile, Christopher Doering reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “The new justice could not only play a factor in the Chesapeake Bay case, but also on a plan from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to curb pollution in small waterways and wetlands.

“The Waters of the U.S. rule, which would clarify which streams, wetlands and other small waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act, has been put on hold because a federal court blocked the measure, pending the outcome of lawsuits from several states.”

The Register article added that, “Susan Heathcote, water program director with the Iowa Environmental Council, said both the Chesapeake Bay and Waters of the U.S. rule are unique cases because they relate to the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, and there is not enough precedent to determine how the Supreme Court might rule. Still, she said the existing makeup of the Supreme Court doesn’t make things worse for the environment and could potentially help it.”

In his DTN article, Chris Clayton also noted that, “One name being floated as a possible nominee is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a second-term Democrat from Minnesota and member of both the Judiciary and Agriculture committees. It would put Republican senators in a far more uncomfortable position if they decided to delay hearings and a vote against one of their own.”

Grant Rodgers reported in today’s Des Moines Register that, “U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley made only one thing clear Tuesday about filling the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia: He’s taking the issue ‘one step at a time.’

“Iowa’s senior U.S. senator fielded questions from a host of journalists and audience members during an afternoon town hall, but Grassley refused to be pinned down on whether he would hold Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for a Supreme Court nominee named by President Barack Obama.”

“The 82-year-old senator holds influence over the process in his role as chairman of the judiciary committee, which would oversee the confirmation process for an Obama nominee,” the Register article said.

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