Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decided United States v. Cundiff, a case arising out of Mulhlenberg County, Kentucky, concerning the scope of federal wetland regulations post-Rapanos. The wetlands at issue were a "festering eyesore," according to the court, largely due to acidic runoff from an nearby abandoned mine site. Rather than describe the poor environmental conditions of the land in its own words, however, the Court dropped a footnote to "Paradise," a John Prine song about Muhlenberg County's environmental woes.
And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg CountyWhen a court quotes lyrics like this, you can assume a challenge to federal environmental regulation will not fare well. And so it was. The Sixth Circuit upheld federal jurisdiction over the Cundiffs land.
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away . . . .
Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal 'til the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man . . .
The full lyrics are available here, and here's a video of Prine performing the song.