Court: Construction can resume on small stretch of pipeline

Court Watch 2016/10/11 22:45   Bookmark and Share
A federal appeals court on Sunday opened the door for construction to resume on a small stretch of the four-state Dakota Access pipeline while it considers an appeal by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The ruling removed a temporary injunction that halted work on the project.

The tribe had asked the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to continue work stoppage on the pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The court earlier ordered work to stop while it considered the motion.

In a statement, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said that the tribe "is not backing down from this fight."

"We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline," Archambault said.

Owned by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project would carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota's oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, where shippers can access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets.

The company did not immediately return an email Sunday seeking comment on the court's decision.

The pipeline passes near Standing Rock Sioux reservation land that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The tribe's protest encampment near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers has swelled to thousands at times as demonstrators from around the country joined their cause.

Tribal and state officials also are at odds over whether sacred sites were destroyed while digging the pipeline corridor. The state archaeologist has said an inspection found no sign that the area contained human remains or cultural artifacts.

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Hawaii Supreme Court affirms Maui solar telescope permit

Court Watch 2016/10/07 22:45   Bookmark and Share
Hawaii's Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed a permit to build a solar telescope on a Maui mountain.

The ruling denies a challenge by a group seeking to protect the sacredness of the summit of Haleakala (hah-leh-AH'-ka-lah). The University of Hawaii followed proper procedure for an environmental assessment, the Supreme Court also ruled in a separate ruling.

Last year, eight people were arrested when protesters tried to stop a construction convoy heading to the solar telescope site. Kahele Dukelow, one of the protest leaders, said opponents are disappointed and considering what their next steps will be.

"We only have one alternative now," she said. "We have to continue to protest in other ways."

They hoped the decision would be similar to the court's ruling last year that invalidated a permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island's Mauna Kea. That project has been the focus of more intense protests. Opposition to both telescopes cite concerns that the projects will desecrate sacred land.

The permit approval process was not "procedurally flawed by prejudgment" nor was it "flawed by impermissible ex parte communication," the court's 3-2 majority opinion said.

State Attorney General Doug Chin said his office will look into whether the rulings have any impact on future matters before the state land board, including the Thirty Meter Telescope.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision," said a statement from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represents the group that challenged the solar telescope project, Kilakila O Haleakala. "This decision impacts all who are concerned about the protection of Hawaii's natural and cultural resources."

Officials with the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope didn't immediately comment.

"We are still reviewing the full decisions, but we look forward to 'first light' when the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope will open a new era of discovery in Hawaii, about the sun and its daily impacts on all life on Earth," university President David Lassner said in a statement.

External construction of the Maui telescope is complete, with only internal work remaining, according to the university. The $340-million project is scheduled to be operational in 2019. Construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope remains stalled pending a new contested case hearing scheduled to begin later this month.

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Supreme Court in holding pattern, awaiting ninth justice

Court Watch 2016/10/01 13:00   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court is set to begin its new term as it ended the last one — down one justice and ideologically deadlocked on a range of issues.
 
The absence of a ninth justice since Antonin Scalia's death in February has hamstrung the court in several cases. It's forced the justices to look for less contentious issues on which they're less likely to divide by 4-4.

It could be several months, at least, before the nation's highest court is again operating at full strength.

How the presidential election turns out will go a long way toward determining the judicial outlook of the ninth justice, the direction of the court and the outcome of several cases already being heard and others that probably will be at the court soon.

A rush hour commuter train crashed through a barrier at the busy Hoboken station and lurched across the waiting area Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others in a grisly wreck that renewed questions about whether long-delayed automated safety technology could have prevented tragedy.

People pulled chunks of concrete off pinned and bleeding victims, passengers kicked out windows and crawled to safety and cries and screams could be heard in the wreckage as emergency workers rushed to reach the injured in the tangle of twisted metal and dangling wires just across the Hudson River from New York City.

The New Jersey Transit train ran off the end of the track as it was pulling in around 8:45 a.m., smashing through a concrete-and-steel bumper. As it ground to a halt in the waiting area, it knocked out pillars, collapsing a section of the roof.

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Court gives fertilizer dealers a reprieve from policy change

Court Watch 2016/09/26 22:39   Bookmark and Share
A court ruling has given farm fertilizer dealers a reprieve from a federal policy change that some say would unfairly burden the industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy change announced last year would regulate retail dealers of farm fertilizer such as anhydrous ammonia under the same standards as manufacturers. It came after a deadly explosion at a Texas plant in 2013.

The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute say the change would affect 3,800 fertilizer retailers nationwide, costing them more than $100 million. The two organizations sued a year ago.

The change was to take effect this coming Saturday. But a federal appeals court has ruled that OSHA can't implement it without going through a formal rule-making process.

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Court to weigh appeal on Indiana's block on Syrian refugees

Court Watch 2016/09/12 15:37   Bookmark and Share
A federal appeals court in Chicago is set to hear arguments in Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's appeal of a ruling that blocked his order to bar state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.

The appeals court is considering the case Wednesday, about two months before voters decide if Pence will be the nation's next vice president.

After the November Paris attacks, Pence said he didn't believe the federal government was adequately screening refugees from war-torn Syria. In February, a federal judge found Pence's order discriminatory against refugees.

Pence administration attorneys say the directive is "narrowly tailored" in the interest of public safety. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana argues refugees are extensively vetted and the state's argument is "built on fear."

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High court temporarily blocks subpoena over sex ads

Court Watch 2016/09/06 23:46   Bookmark and Share
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday temporarily blocked a congressional subpoena that seeks information on how the classified advertising website Backpage.com screens ads for possible sex trafficking.

The order came hours after Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer asked the high court to intervene, saying the case threatens the First Amendment rights of online publishers.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Friday that the website must respond to the subpoena within 10 days. Roberts said Backpage does not have to comply with the appeals court order until further action from the Supreme Court. He requested a response from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations by Friday.

The Senate panel has tried for nearly a year to force Backpage to produce certain documents as part of its investigation into human trafficking over the Internet.

After the website refused to comply, the Senate voted 96-0 in March to hold the website in contempt. The vote allowed the Senate to pursue the documents in federal court, marking the first time in more than two decades that the Senate has enforced a subpoena in court.

A federal district judge sided with the Senate last month, rejecting arguments that the subpoena was unconstitutional, overly broad and burdensome. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed.
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