At a time when the White House and Congress all seem to be captured by corporate interests, it can be hard to believe that the United States government -- a democracy in name -- represents the will of the people.
Although after years of conservative appointments it's becoming less frequent, occasionally the Courts -- the least democratic of the federal branches, relatively insulated from the political process with lifetime appointments -- can be most protective of the environment and the citizenry.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the EPA and Bush Administration's New Source Review policy that would have loosened emission rules and allowed older power plants, refineries and factories to upgrade their facilities without having to install the most advanced pollution controls.
Judge Rogers accused the EPA of trying to redefine language in the Clean Air Act to selectively exclude many facilities from the requirement that they install new air-pollution controls when making significant upgrades. The Court believed that when Congress required upgrades for a "modification" it meant any modification. The Court stated that "[o]nly in a Humpty Dumpty world would Congress be required to use superfluous words [to define "modification"] while an agency could ignore an expansive word that Congress did use. We decline to adopt such a worldview."
As Grist pointed out, "Americans who breathe scored a big victory . . ."