Earlier today the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the U.S. government can block development on hundreds of millions of acres of wetlands- even if these wetlands are miles away from waterways.
The deciding vote was cast by Justice Anthony Kennedy - who, despite not agreeing entirely with the decision, came down on the side of the Court's liberals that the Clean Water Act's regulations can apply to land adjacent to tributaries. Even tributaries that are not filled with water all the time and year-round.
I want you to realize how close this vote was, and how narrowly a path toward environmental degradation was averted.
First, as to the decision itself, the National Wildlife Federation- an environmentally moderate group not to be confused with the Sierra Club- is breathing a big sigh of relief.
"Justice Kennedy saves it from being an absolute disaster," said National Wildlife Federation attorney Jim Murphy.
"Five justices of the Supreme Court wrote or joined opinions that support broad protection for rivers, streams, and wetlands under the Clean Water Act," added Doug Kendall, executive director of the Community Rights Council.
Now, let us do the math.
5-4. One of the naysayers was the court's newest member, Nader-appointed (or if you really think so, Diebold/Rove/Blackwell-appointed) "Justice" Samuel "No Knock" Alito.
The other Bush-appointed Justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, also voted no.
Siding with the decision to deny big contributor developers to piss all over the Clean Water Act and put condos in beautiful natural areas was Justice John Paul Stevens.
John Paul Stevens is 86.
If the Republicans hold the Senate this November, John Paul Stevens will be on the cusp of 89 during the 2008 Presidential campaign season. And we all know people who were less vigorous at 89 than 86- if they made it that far to begin with.
To quote Neil Young, Justice Stevens, "long may you run.." but then I know some insurance agents with some actuarial tables.
I also know a bunch of voters who realize that close decisions such as this make it absolutely imperative that the Democrats take over the Senate. Even if it means re-electing Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton.
With the Dems in control, the forces of good get veto power over the next Supreme Court appointment.
An appointment which we all hope won't happen until the White House changes hands.
But an appointment one which the actuaries may tell you just might happen before then.