Environmental Law & Property Rights Practice Group Podcast
Unconventional oil and gas production (or "fracking") has generated new wealth, new jobs, and new sources of energy for many Americans. But fracking has also generated local congestion and pollution problems, and some believe that it creates significant risks for state fresh water supplies or global climate change. In many states, localities opposed to fracking are trying to ban the practice or impose long moratoriums on it within municipal limits, notwithstanding statewide political support for fracking. The tensions between state-level energy policies and local restrictions raise legal questions about when statewide energy regulations should preempt local efforts to restrict fracking using local powers over land use. Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court handed down two new and important preemption decisions, City of Fort Collins v. Colorado Oil & Gas Association, and Longmont v. Colorado Oil & Gas Association. Our experts discussed both cases, their significance in Colorado, and their implications for fracking and preemption law elsewhere in the United States.
- Prof. Eric R. Claeys, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
- Prof. Hannah Wiseman, Attorneys' Title Professor, Florida State University College of Law
SCOTUScast 5-23-16 featuring Roger Severino
On May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Zubik v. Burwell, the lead case in a consolidated series, with the other petitioners including Priests for Life, Southern Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, East Texas Baptist University, and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requires that group health plans and health insurance issuers provide coverage for women’s “preventative care,” or face financial penalties. Although the ACA does not define preventative care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), relying on the Institute of Medicine, determined that the term encompassed, among other things, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including drugs and devices that could induce an abortion. Federal regulations require petitioners to cover these contraceptives as part of their health plans, unless petitioners submit a form either to their insurer or to the Federal Government, stating that they object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage. Petitioners resisted, asserting that submitting the notice substantially burdened the exercise of their religion, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The ensuing litigation yielded different outcomes in different U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari. Following oral argument, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties addressing “whether contraceptive coverage could be provided to petitioners’ employees, through petitioners’ insurance companies, without any such notice from petitioners.”
After receiving the supplemental briefs the Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Courts of Appeals by a vote of 8-0 and remanded the cases to the Third, Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits, respectively. The Court’s per curiam opinion explained that “‘the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’” Furthermore, the Court indicated it was expressing no view on the merits of the cases and stated that “nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives.’" At the same time, the Court noted, throughout this litigation, petitioners had made the Government aware of their view that they meet “the requirements for exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement on religious grounds” and nothing in the Court’s opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, “precludes the Government from relying on this notice, to the extent it considers it necessary, to facilitate the provision of full contraceptive coverage going forward.” And because the Government may rely on this notice, the Court indicated, “the Government may not impose taxes or penalties on petitioners for failure to provide the relevant notice.”
Justice Sotomayor issued a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg.
To discuss the case, we have Roger Severino, who is Director, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, The Heritage Foundation.