Case: Entergy Corp. v. EPA (and two other similar cases)

Date: Tuesday Dec. 2, 2008

Issue: Whether the Clean Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compare costs with benefits in determining the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact at water-intake cooling structures.

Background: Three cases have been consolidated into one oral argument before the Court. The crux of these cases center on the formula the EPA uses to determine how power plants process water. The water is necessary to cool super-heated machines and is then returned back into the environment. As a consequence, the surrounding environment is impacted when the water is processed. Congress tasked the EPA to find the "best technology available" to mitigate the environmental impact. In 2004, the EPA determined that a cost-benefit analysis could be done to determine what technology power plants should utilize for its water processing needs. Environmentalists sued, saying the cost-benefit analysis was a lax standard and violated the Clean Water Act. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling the cost-benefit analysis was deficient in determining the most feasible method for protecting the environment.

Case: Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee

Date: Tuesday Dec. 2, 2008

Issue: Can someone make a school-based gender discrimination claim utilizing federal law beyond what is permitted in the 1972 Title IX legislation?

Background: There is little dispute Jacqueline Fitzgerald was subject to some viscous treatment by an older student on her school bus. The kindergartner was the victim of repeated harassment by a third grade boy who because of other disciplinary problems had been ordered to sit in the front of the bus — the same part of the bus with kindergartners like Fitzgerald. When the bullying came to light a school investigation concluded the best remedy was for Fitzgerald to ride a different bus. Her parents were incensed by the decision and sued the school district for failing to provide "an adequate and nondiscriminatory response" to their daughter's harassment. Their charges were filed under several federal civil rights laws including Title IX legislation which focuses on gender equity in the schools. Lower courts, while sympathetic to the young girl's situation, have ruled against the parents. With the First Circuit ruling that Title IX law precludes people like the Fitzgerald's from also filing gender discrimination claims under pre-existing civil rights legislation.