The article that intrigued me was found on The New York Times website under the science section. It was titled "States Can Sue Utilities Over Emissions." I continued to read this article, because it is a topic that I have not actually thought in depth about. Should states and land trusts be able to sue big power companies for emitting carbon dioxide? It made me wonder whether our current systems of the judicial and legislative branches are dealing with these issues sufficiently. As of Monday, September 21st, 2009, a federal appeals court has ruled that big power companies can be sued by the states and land trusts for heavy emissions.
There are issues to be considered when making a decision that has such an impact on life. First of all, there is the question of what is the best way to do law? Do the courts always give a fair verdict and does Congress always pass effective laws? These questions need to be considered especially when this topic is likely to arise many more times in the years to come. In the courts, lawyers represent competing interests, but neither side is representing the interests of everyday citizens. The citizens do not have a say in the decisions being made. This ruling does not account for the people who will have to pay higher energy costs due to the lawsuits the companies face. The citizens weren't asked if they wanted to pay higher costs to protect the environment; they were given no say in the matter. Also, with this ruling, where does the law stop? Can any company be sued for being a heavy polluter? If so, can car makers be sued for making gas guzzlers, and can everyday citizens be sued for driving gas guzzlers? For more public involvement in the decision making process, we usually turn to Congress. However, in this situation, Congress has deficiencies of its own. In recent years, Congress has been known for its deadlocked debates and lobbyist control. In general, the power companies have more money to pay for lobbyists which makes it easier for the industry to pass a bill that would serve their interests more than a federal ruling making an ineffective law at protecting public air.
The judicial and legislative branches are both effective in their own ways. The courts make very powerful and decisive decisions with little outside interference which protects the rights of some. Congress is elected by the public giving public input to laws being passed. Their constituents cover the full spectrum of opinions balancing which opinions are stronger. The bills Congress pass are usually very broad while very specific tackling a lot of small issues in a single bill.
The government system has been in place for more than 200 years. Today, complex issues challenge the power and effectiveness of every branch of the government. The system of checks and balances has been a successful method of law making in the past. As proof of its robustness, I believe this issue will be solved through the checks and balances system. It is clear that not one branch is fully capable of creating a useful law. In this case, if a law is established that goes to far, the system will restore itself through the use of the other branches. The same is true for a law that is not effective enough. In this process, the benefits of all branches are combined together to form a complete picture of the needs and purpose for a law.