May 23 News: A Battle Over Appeals Court Vacancies Could Seriously Affect New Carbon Regulations

Whether Obama and the Democrats can fill vacancies in the Federal Appeals Court in Washington D.C. could decide the fate of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of power plant emissions. [NY Mag]

The biggest piece of President Obama’s second-term agenda is his widely expected plan for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new carbon regulations for power plants, a move that could bring the United States in line with the greenhouse-gas-reduction goals it agreed to in Copenhagen and open the way for an international treaty to control climate change. If the administration unveils such a plan, conservatives will undoubtedly challenge its legality. The legal challenge won’t take place for two years, but the two sides are preparing for war already. The field of battle will be the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Circuit, as the appeals court covering legal issues arising within the nation’s capital, has assumed a large and growing influence in the ideological wars over the scope of government, and over the last decade its appointments have provoked bitter conflict. … Since President Obama took office, four vacancies have opened on the D.C. Circuit Court, and Obama has not managed to seat a single justice to fill any of the slots. Republicans have displayed a willingness to filibuster even mainstream nominees, like Caitlin Halligan, who recently withdrew, while Obama expended little effort to resist.

Harry Reid is warning that, unless Republicans stop routinely filibustering Obama’s nominees for cabinet and judicial positions — that is, unless they adopt the high threshold that Senate Democrats accepted for blocking Bush’s nominees — he will change the Senate rules to ban such filibusters, just as Republicans had threatened under Bush. … The Republican response is more audacious. They propose not merely to continue blocking Obama’s nominees but to simply eliminate all three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, which will hear the inevitable legal challenge to power plant regulations.

More on the divestment campaign: students are pressuring their schools to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. [AP]

The Solar Impulse completed the second leg of its cross-country journey, setting a distance record for a solar powered airplane. [AP]

Vice President Biden told graduating Coast Guard officers that they faced the “opportunity” and “challenges” of an ice-free Arctic. [The Hill]

The Congressional Budget Office released a report on the effects of a carbon tax, noting it could raise “significant” revenue while heading off “catastrophic” climate change. [The Hill]

In a new survey, 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a priority for lawmakers, and 87 percent say we should be developing clean energy. [TreeHugger]

Toyota is increasing its production of lithium-ion batteries sixfold in an effort to upgrade its line of Prius hybrid cars. [TreeHugger]

A new organic solar cell printer can produce a binder-sized sheet of solar panel every two seconds. [Gizmodo]

An entrepreneur is crowd funding a new solar-powered water pump for crop irrigation in developing countries. [Ecopreneurist]

Electric utilities are trying to get the tariff system for rooftop solar altered, in an effort to protect their dwindling revenues. [Renew Economy]

Total greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture his 4.69 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, a 13 percent increase over 1990, according to a new study. [Farmers Guardian]