Air travel chaos likely to worsen this weekend. SCOTUS rulings: EPA can’t cap carbon emissions from power plants; Biden can end Remain in Mexico policy.
Passengers brace for July 4th weekend travel chaos
With millions of travelers flying over the weekend, industry experts are expecting many long delays and hundreds of flight cancellations. Yesterday, airlines cancelled over 450 flights. At the time of this writing, there have been over 250 cancellations today with more possible. The same is likely to be true over the weekend.
The reasons for these travel snarls are numerous, most having to do with airline staffing shortages. The airlines have received much criticism and scrutiny for the 21,000+ cancellations since Memorial Day, more than twice the number over the same period last year. Airline industry groups are attempting to shift the blame to the FAA, which is experience staffing shortages of its own.
At the start of the pandemic, the airline industry received $54 billion in federal funds from one of the CARES packages. The money was supposed to help the industry to maintain its staff and equipment as airline travel dipped sharply. Instead, airlines furloughed and laid off thousands of employees. Since travel started picking up again, airlines have yet to get their staff numbers up to pre-pandemic levels, despite the surge in demand and higher prices.
One key shortage is pilots. After taking the billions in federal funds, airlines offered pilots nearing retirement lucrative packages to entice them into retiring early. But flight schools were also closed during that time, so there aren’t enough new pilots in the pipeline to replace the ones who’ve left.
Supreme Court guts EPA’s authority to cap carbon emissions
As one of its final acts before the summer recess, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority dealt a major blow to the federal government’s ability to set carbon emissions targets. During the Obama and Biden presidencies, the EPA set caps on carbon emissions for power plants by state. The court ruled that the EPA lacked the authority to do that without specific Congressional approval. This means that the states and even individual businesses will now be able to set their own caps regardless of federal guidelines.
Environmentalists say that the ruling is a huge setback in the fight to slow down climate change. With, so far, no major legislation having passed to fund climate policies and actions, Biden’s running out of avenues to meet his professed climate goals. Not only has the federal government lost the ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, there is a possibility it will soon be unable to regulate emissions from coal, gas and oil.
Even if Congress were not currently deadlocked on climate policy, it’s a lot to ask of lawmakers to make the best scientifically-grounded decision. That’s why federal agencies have generally had broad authority to regulate in their respective fields.
SCOTUS rules Biden can end controversial Remain in Mexico policy
Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberals in a ruling that will allow Biden to end a controversial immigration policy. The Remain in Mexico policy came into effect early in the Trump administration. The policy requires asylum seekers who attempt to cross the Southern border to await their US asylum hearings in Mexico rather than in the US.
At it’s high point during the Trump era, as many as 70,000 people were subject to the policy. Most had little choice but to wait in some of Mexico’s border towns in shelters or encampments. These are some of the most dangerous areas in Mexico and immigrants staying there were vulnerable to theft, abuse and violent crime.
Biden had lifted the policy in the early days of his presidency. However, after several conservative states brought lawsuits, a lower federal court ruled that the policy had to remain in place. In the majority opinion, Justice Roberts wrote that the lower courts had erred in its premise that Biden did not have the authority to lift the policy. Since the Remain in Mexico policy is also a matter of foreign policy, that places it squarely in the federal government’s purview.
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