Very quietly, the coalition tries to dismantle judicial review

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Courtesy of Ian Dunt @ Politics.co.uk:

When the local council gave permission to put up a 66 metre wind turbine next to the home of Chris and Julia Holder, it initially seemed they were powerless to stop it. Despite 1,125 letters of objections, the plans went through. It was judicial review which gave the couple the ability to fight the case in the Court of Appeal.

When the Department for Education stripped headteachers of their discretion to approve absences during term-time, a group of parents suddenly found they couldn’t afford to take their kids on trips overseas. They used judicial review to challenge the decision.

When Sefton Borough Council refused to fund care for elderly Ms Blanchard until she’d diminished her savings to £1,500, it was judicial review which ended up finding the policy unlawful. The decision forced 120 other authorities to review their budget decisions and saved vulnerable people from having their savings slashed to pay for care.

Judicial review sounds boring. You shouldn’t put it in a headline, as I have, because people won’t click on it. You can’t mention it across a dinner table because everyone will stare at their plate and wait for you to shut up. But it is one of the most powerful tools citizens have over their government. In almost every case of injustice by the Home Office I’ve come across – especially in relation to immigration and asylum – it is judicial review which allowed the most vulnerable people in the country to challenge the most powerful.

When Chris Grayling was found to have turned legal aid into “an instrument of discrimination”, it was because of judicial review. When two immigration officers detained, shouted at, bullied, harassed, imprisoned and conspired against an innocent Indian mother, how did her family fight the case? Judicial review.

So of course it should come as no surprise that the government is trying to dismantle it in the Lords this afternoon. They will do so not by banning it or anything as obvious as that. Instead they will do what the coalition always does: price it out. They will make it too expensive and risky for anyone but the most reckless and wealthy to contemplate. Continue reading

First national study finds trees saving lives, reducing respiratory problems: Air pollution modeling reveals broad-scale impacts of pollution removal by trees

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Courtesy of NRS:

In the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees nationwide, U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators calculated that trees are saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

While trees’ pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial. Researchers valued the human health effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion every year in a study published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The study by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute is unique in that it directly links the removal of air pollution with improved human health effects and associated health values. The scientists found that pollution removal is substantially higher in rural areas than urban areas, however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than rural areas.

“With more than 80 percent of Americans living in urban area, this research underscores how truly essential urban forests are to people across the nation,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “Information and tools developed by Forest Service research are contributing to communities valuing and managing the 138 million acres of trees and forests that grace the nation’s cities, towns and communities.” Continue reading