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Paxton goes after DACA

I have no words.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from nine other states on Thursday urged the Trump administration to end an Obama-era program that’s allowed hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to live and work in the country without fear of being deported.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Paxton urged the White House to rescind the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. DACA applies to undocumented immigrants that came to the country before they were 16 years old and were 30 or younger as of June 2012. It awards recipients a renewable, two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation proceedings.

As of August 2016, more than 220,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas had applied for a permit or a renewal of one under the program, and nearly 200,000 of those have been approved, according to government statistics. It’s the second-highest total behind California’s estimated 387,000 applications and 359,000 approvals during the same time frame.

“We respectfully request that the Secretary of Homeland Security phase out the DACA program,” Paxton wrote. He was joined by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter.

“Specifically, we request that the Secretary of Homeland Security rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and order that the Executive Branch will not renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future,” Paxton wrote.

[…]

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, blasted the move and warned the signatories they’ll be remembered for being on the wrong side of history.

“Their evident xenophobia is not remotely consistent with the trajectory of our nation’s history and future progress,” MALDEF president and general counsel Thomas Saenz said in a statement. “Their political careers and each of their states will suffer from their mean-spirited stupidity.”

I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s cruel, it’s stupid, and I can’t think of a meaningful definition of “Christian” that would allow for it. The one sure to be effective thing we can do about this is to elect an Attorney General who won’t pull this crap. Nothing will change until we change who we elect. The Press, the Current, and Daily Kos have more.

Clean Power Plan’s day in the DC court

We’ll see how it goes.

Dozens of lawyers from the government, industry and public interest groups packed the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, to hear the divisive case that comes just weeks before a heated presidential election and illustrates how a President’s picks for the lower court might impact his own agenda.

The plan is currently frozen because last February, the Supreme Court voted to delay implementation until the appeals process could play out.

Opponents to the plan claim that the EPA went too far under the law to push the rule.

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh at one point questioned EPA’s authority.

“This is a huge case,” he said and noted that it could “fundamentally” transform the industry. Kavanaugh said the administration’s policy is “laudable” but questioned under the separation of powers whether Congress, and not the EPA, had to speak clearly on the issue.

Judge Thomas B. Griffith chimed in asking, “why isn’t this debate going on in the floor of the Senate?” rather than before a panel of judges. But Judge Patricia A. Millet reiterated at one point that the Supreme Court “has already said” that the EPA has the authority to regulate in the area.

Other judges questioned whether by 2030, the rule would be any more transformative to the coal industry, for example, than market forces would be.

Judge David S. Tatel asked whether the agency was simply “invoking existing authority.”

While the morning session in court was dedicated to statutory arguments, in the afternoon the court heard arguments concerning whether it was unconstitutional. The challengers’ constitutional arguments did not appear to to get much traction with the judges.

[…]

During complex arguments before a multi-member court is dangerous to try to determine — based on questions posed at oral arguments — how a judge will ultimately rule. It’s worth noting however, that Tuesday’s case comes before an appellate court that has been transformed during the Obama administration.

Before Obama took office the appeals court tilted toward conservative appointees with six judges nominated by a Republican president and three nominated by a Democratic president. There were also two vacancies.

Currently, the active judges on the court consist of four GOP appointees and seven Democratic appointees. In 2013, Obama placed four judges on the court, three of them immediately after the Senate changed its filibuster rules. Tuesday’s case was heard by all the active members of the court except for Chief Judge Merrick Garland who has recused himself from hearing cases because he has been nominated to the Supreme Court.

“The party of an appointing president surely makes a difference in some types of cases — environmental for example — more than others,” said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute. “When the full court meets is when the party of appointing president is likely to matter most because the great majority of decisions are made by three-judge panels, randomly drawn and not necessarily reflective of the overall composition of the court.”

See here for the background. ThinkProgress agrees with the basic vote counting, with the possibility of a GOP judge siding with the Dems. The long and short of it is that we’ve seen this basic fight play out multiple times before – the Obama administration proposes a regulatory enforcement plan for the EPA, various Republican states led by Texas freak out and file suit, and the courts sort it out, usually with the feds winning. But do keep in mind that all of this is happening because 1) a Democratic President who cares about fighting climate change proposed this regulatory scheme, among others, and 2) an appeals court that has more Democratic appointees than Republican ones will make the decision that is likely to stand thanks to the current makeup of the Supreme Court. The fastest way to undo this is to not have a Democratic President in place after November. I’m just saying.

Back to court for the Clean Power Plan

Here we go.

One of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s final acts on Earth may have been to doom it.

Last February, on the final Tuesday of Scalia’s life, the Supreme Court handed down a 5–4 decision suspending the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. It was a surprising development — a lower court panel that included a conservative Republican judge previously denied a request to stay this plan — and a chilling development for anyone who cares about the planet. The Clean Power Plan is the Obama administration’s most ambitious effort to fight climate change. And it is difficult to exaggerate the consequences if these efforts fail:

In the relatively short term, the Environmental Protection Agency predicts that the Clean Power Plan will “avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.” In the longer term, major cities could be swallowed by the ocean. Displaced residents will trigger a worldwide refugee crisis. Entire regions of the United States could be converted into a permanent Dust Bowl. The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will rival any tragedy that has faced humanity since the Book of Genesis.

Scalia’s vote to stay the Clean Power Plan was enough to delay it, but not enough to destroy it. Now, however, the effort to permanently kill the plan is about to face its first big test.

A ten judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — arguably the second-most powerful court in the country — will hear arguments on the fate of the plan on Tuesday. With Scalia dead, and the Supreme Court evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the D.C. Circuit’s decision could be the last word on the plan’s legality.

While Scalia did not live to cast a vote eradicating the plan, his ghost still haunts this case. It lingers over the parties’ briefs, casting doubt upon long-settled doctrines viewed as rock solid just a few years ago. West Virginia v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, the challenge to the Clean Power Plan, is the culmination of a years-long effort by conservatives to hobble the executive branch — an effort Scalia started to embrace during his final years on the Court. And, if the Clean Power Plan falls, it will be because this effort scored just enough victories during the twilight of Scalia’s life.

See here, here, and here for the background. Needless to say, Texas is leading the charge in this litigation.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of trying to “force Texas to change how we regulate energy production,” through what he called an “unprecedented expansion of federal authority.”

“What we need is more reliable energy — not less, and the EPA is trying to stop that,” the Republican said while appearing on a panel in Washington, D.C.

Paxton specifically targeted the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s state-by-state effort to fight climate change by shifting away from coal power to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable resources.

His appearance on the panel, organized by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, came one day before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is to hear four hours of oral arguments over the carbon dioxide-cutting rule. Those watching the litigation say the outcome could make or break Obama’s legacy on climate change.

[…]

The regulations would force states to slash carbon dioxide emissions from power plants however they see fit — accelerating a shift from coal that started years ago. Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas that directly contributes to climate change.

For Texas — the nation’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter by far — that would mean cutting an annual average of 51 million tons of emissions, down about 21 percent from 2012 levels.

Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas Republicans have argued that doing so would cost the state jobs, push electricity costs too high and threaten reliability on the grid. They say the regulations subvert state power.

Eighteen states and a litany of health and environmental groups have joined the Obama administration in defending the Clean Power Plan.

On Monday, one environmental group criticized Paxton for championing coal interests while challenging the regulation.

“Dirty coal just doesn’t make sense anymore, economically or environmentally, but Attorney General Paxton appears to want to go down with a sinking ship,” Luke Metzger, director of the advocacy group Environment Texas, said in an email. “Texans support transitioning to clean energy and the Clean Power Plan is helping make that possible.”

Proponents of the rules, backed by early analyses, suggest that market forces and existing policies alone would push Texas most of the way toward its target.

One study released in May predicted that coal generation would shrink from about 28 percent of state power generation to 6 percent by 2035 — not factoring in the controversial federal regulation.

Aside from inflation, Texans would see “virtually no price increase” if natural gas and solar prices continue to get cheaper as some expect, concluded the study by the Brattle Group, a global research firm that often crunches numbers for Texas regulators. Funding for that study came from the Texas Clean Energy Coalition, which supports natural gas and renewable energy sources.

boy, nothing says “forward-thinking” like protecting the interests of coal-burning power plants. The DC Court’s decision here is very likely to be the final word. If it comes down to a Supreme Court that has a ninth member that was appointed by President Trump, it won’t matter anyway since the EPA will cease enforcing environmental regulations because global warming is a myth. So, you know, no big deal. The Observer and the Chron have more.

Full DC Circuit Court to review Clean Power Plan

From ThinkProgress, an update on yet another federal lawsuit involving Texas.

The Clean Power Plan will get its day in court, but in September, not June — and by the full en banc D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, not the court’s normal three-judge panel that was scheduled to hear it in just over two weeks.

West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency is one of the most important environmental cases in almost a decade. The case will decide whether the EPA violated the law when it finalized its carbon rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector under the Clean Air Act.

So Monday evening the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals announced it is bypassing its planned June 2 oral arguments over the Obama administration’s signature climate policy.

“It is ORDERED, on the court’s own motion, that these cases, currently scheduled for oral argument on June 2, 2016, be rescheduled for oral argument before the en banc court on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.,” the D.C. Circuit’s announcement read. “It is FURTHER ORDERED that the parties and amici curiae provide 25 additional paper copies of all final briefs and appendices to the court by June 1, 2016. A separate order will issue regarding allocation of oral argument time.”

See here and here for the proximate events that led to this, and here for all prior blogging on the Clean Power Plan. The linked article explains what the court’s order is all about, but the nickel version is that this ought to speed things up a bit, since the full court’s eventual ruling would go next to SCOTUS instead of being a midway point between the three-judge panel and SCOTUS. Since it was a 5-4 SCOTUS ruling that suspended the CPP pending judicial review – the first time that had ever happened – it’s highly likely that today’s diminished SCOTUS would deadlock if this were now on their plate. One presumes the high court will be at full strength by the time this does come their way, but regardless of that, it raises the stakes on the DC court’s eventual ruling. Buckle up, and get ready for a bunch of briefs to be headed the DC court’s way. E&E Publishing and the WaPo have more.

SCOTUS puts Clean Power Plan on hold

And in doubt.

ERCOT

In a major setback for President Obama’s climate change agenda, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The brief order was not the last word on the case, which is most likely to return to the Supreme Court after an appeals court considers an expedited challenge from 29 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

But the Supreme Court’s willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was an early hint that the program could face a skeptical reception from the justices.

The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court.

“It’s a stunning development,” Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration, said in an email. She added that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court,” and that the ruling would raise serious questions from nations that signed on to the landmark Paris climate change pact in December.

In negotiating that deal, which requires every country to enact policies to lower emissions, Mr. Obama pointed to the power plant rule as evidence that the United States would take ambitious action, and that other countries should follow.

The White House said in a statement that it disagreed with the court’s decision and remained confident that it would ultimately prevail. “The administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions,” it said.

[…]

The E.P.A., represented by [Solicitor General Donald] Verrilli, called the requests for a stay “extraordinary and unprecedented.” The states challenging the administration’s plan, he said, could point to no case in which the Supreme Court had “granted a stay of a generally applicable regulation pending initial judicial review in the court of appeals.” In a later brief, the states conceded that point.

Mr. Verrilli said judicial review of the plan, including by the Supreme Court, will be complete before the first deadline for emissions reductions in 2022.

“There is no reason to suppose that states’ duties under the rule will be especially onerous,” Mr. Verrilli wrote. “A state can elect not to prepare a plan at all, but instead may allow E.P.A. to develop and implement a federal plan for sources in that state.”

Less than three weeks before this, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the same request. As with everything the Roberts Court does, it’s hard not to read politics into their unprecedented granting of this request. I hope I’m wrong about that. The DC court will hear arguments on June 2, so one way or the other SCOTUS will be letting us know how they really feel in the near future. The Trib, Think Progress, SCOTUSBlog, Daily Kos, Slate, and the Observer have more.

Clean Power Plan can proceed for now

Good.

ERCOT

A federal appeals court has denied a request from Texas and other states to block President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, leaving the controversial climate change rules in place as a legal challenge winds through the courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote Thursday that the states — joined by the coal industry — “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay.”

The two-page order was an early victory for Obama and others who support the state-by-state effort to combat climate change by slashing carbon emissions from power plants — largely through a shift from coal-fired power to natural gas and renewable sources.

Texas and West Virginia are leading a 25-state coalition challenging the plan, arguing that it could push electricity costs too high and threaten reliability. Beyond declining to immediately halt the rules, the court on Thursday set oral arguments in the case for June 2.

[…]

Texas must cut an annual average of 51 million tons of carbon to reach its federal target, a reduction of about 21 percent from 2012 emissions. The mandate rankles Republicans, but proponents of the rules — backed by early analyses — suggest that market forces and existing policies alone will push Texas most of the way toward its target.

As it stands, states have until Sept. 6 to submit a final plan or apply for an extension.

Texas leaders have refused to confirm whether they will create a carbon-cutting plan in case they lose in court. If the state flouts the rule, the EPA will impose its own plan on the state.

See here and here for the background. In addition to being not too hard a target to meet, the Clean Power Plan would have the ancillary benefit of saving water, and there are power companies in Texas who support it and oppose the lawsuit against the EPA. Not that any of that matters to Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton. FuelFix and Think Progress have more.

The inevitable latest lawsuit against the EPA

As night follows the day.

ERCOT

As promised, Texas is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over President Obama’s plan to combat climate change, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday, just after the new regulation had been finalized.

The state is suing as part of a bipartisan coalition of 24 states — including Missouri and Kentucky, which are led by Democrats — that will jointly request a stay on the plan Friday afternoon.

The regulation, known as the Clean Power Plan, requires states to cut carbon emissions by shifting from coal power to natural gas and renewables over the next 15 years.

Paxton has warned that the Clean Power Plan would dramatically inflate the cost of electricity for consumers and imperil the state’s power grid, describing the regulation as a federal “power grab.”

[…]

The coalition will argue that the EPA “cannot force the states to regulate where the EPA doesn’t have authority to regulate itself,” Morrisey explained.

It filed a petition for review of the regulation Friday morning with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“Petitioners will show that the final rule is in excess of the agency’s statutory authority, goes beyond the bounds set by the United States Constitution, and otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law,” the petition says. “Accordingly, the petitioners ask the court to hold unlawful and set aside the rule, and to order other such relief as may be appropriate.”

See here for the background, and here for the AG’s complaint. ERCOT has actually confirmed that Texas is well-positioned to comply with the Clean Power Plan, but what fun would that be? The ritual must be observed, like the playing of the National Anthem before a sporting event. Round and round we go, and when the Supreme Court ultimately settles it, nobody knows.

Yes, we can cut back on coal

It won’t be that hard, and it will come with a lot of benefits.

Texas burns more coal than any other state in part because of its large and growing population and industrial base. But the carbon-intensive fuel accounted for less than 40 percent of the state’s power use last year.

The federal proposal calls for Texas to reduce its carbon emissions 39 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In contrast, West Virginia and Kentucky, which generate nearly all of their power from coal, would be required to make cuts of 20 and 18 percent, respectively.

Some Texas officials have questioned whether the proposed reduction is even possible without a radical shift in generation toward natural gas, wind and solar and a stronger push to use energy more efficiently. Texas’ power grid operator has said about half of the state’s coal-burning capacity might be retired under the federal plan.

But some experts say Texas wrongly views the rules as an existential threat to its energy-heavy economy. Instead, they argue, the state could achieve the federal targets without a lot of new initiatives.

The disconnect persists because “this regulation hits the status quo harder than any other, and we have powerful economic interests in this state wanting to maintain the status quo,” said Thomas McGarity, a University of Texas at Austin law professor who specializes in government regulation.

The combination has caused some operators to decide whether to retire their coal plants or retrofit them with expensive new pollution controls.

In its formal comments on the proposal, the Sierra Club said Texas could achieve the EPA’s proposed target by retiring 10 coal-burning power plants that are more than 40 years old and replacing them with natural gas-fired plants.

“We talk about how there is a war on coal, and that’s true,” said Victor Flatt, a professor of environmental law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But there isn’t a war on fossil fuels. This rule is favorable to natural gas. In the end, I don’t think it will have the huge economic impact that people say it will.”

But there are concerns that the EPA will require states to make emissions cuts too quickly, leading to unintended consequences.

See here and here for the background, and remember again that reducing the use of coal for power generation would also greatly reduce water usage, which would have ancillary benefits for Texas. The crux of the complaint by the TCEQ seems to be that it’s not fair to ask more of Texas than some other states, including Kentucky and West Virginia, which produce the most coal but which use much less of it since they’re so much smaller than we are. I guess “Texas exceptionalism” stops when the discussion turns to responsibilities. I don’t know about you, but I think the great state of Texas is more than up to the task of being a leader in reducing coal consumption. Too bad the TCEQ – and I presume more than a few Republican officeholders – think so little of our state’s abilities.

C-USA and and MWC make merger plans official

We knew it was coming.

With their respective leagues being picked apart by the month to fulfill others’ expansion plans, 16 presidents and chancellors from Conference USA and Mountain West Conference met Sunday in Dallas, knowing they needed to do something.

The result is a new league with a wide scope that goes coast-to-coast and beyond.

C-USA and the Mountain West agreed on an athletic association that will combine the remaining members of the two leagues plus three future Mountain West members to form a 16-team conference beginning in the 2013-14 academic year.

The new league, whose name is to be determined, will include Rice. Athletic director Rick Greenspan called it the dawning of an exciting new chapter for the Owls.

“This new conference is one that allows us to retain much of the competitive equity and familiarity we have built up over our seven years in C-USA while also broadening our appeal to an even wider audience,” Greenspan said in a statement. “It will address many of the core concerns that have led others to seek new affiliations and does so without a significant increase in the demands we place on our student-athletes.”

Ultimately, the league’s membership likely will include 18 to 24 schools, with members ranging from the Atlantic seaboard to Hawaii. A football championship format will include semifinals and a final, and there will be a conference basketball tournament.

There’s 16 teams now for football, 15 or possible less for other sports. I’m guessing other schools may affiliate for other sports, but who knows. At least for football, there’s a neat east-west division, with the C-USA schools being in the former and the MWC schools in the latter. That will help with travel costs. I woulcn’t call this the best of all possible worlds, but it’ll do till whatever the next thing is that shakes up the landscape comes along. And the MOB will get to do an Annual Salute To The New Conference show.

Meanwhile, West Virginia has settled its lawsuit with the Big East.

West Virginia will join the Big 12 for the 2012 season after a lawsuit settlement was reached with the Big East, the school and league announced Tuesday.

The Big East Conference board of directors voted to terminate West Virginia’s membership, effective June 30. The vote is conditioned upon WVU fulfilling its obligations under an agreement that resolves the lawsuits between both parties.

West Virginia accepted an invitation in October 2011 to join the Big 12, and sued the Big East in its home state to get out of the league without waiting the required 27 months. The Big East filed its own suit in Rhode Island, seeking to hold West Virginia to the waiting period.

The Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, citing an anonymous source, has reported that the Big East will receive $20 million in the settlement, with WVU contributing $11 million, and the Big 12 covering the remaining amount.

WVU already has paid half of the normally required $5 million exit fee to the Big East.

As my friend Ellen likes to say, some problems are best solved by swatting them with a checkbook until they die. This was one of them. We’ll see if Syracuse and Pittsburgh will follow West Virginia out the door before their waiting period is up.

Big XII expects WVU for 2012

The Big East is no obstacle.

Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said Tuesday he fully expects West Virginia to start play next season despite a hard-line stance from the Big East.

Neinas attended a reception in Morgantown officially welcoming the Mountaineers into the Big 12 on Tuesday, a day after the university filed a lawsuit against the Big East seeking to clear the way for West Virginia to start Big 12 competition next fall.

[…]

When Neinas was asked what happens if the Big East is successful in delaying West Virginia’s quick exit, “then I guess for the first time in college football history, we’ll have home and home” schedules, he joked. “Oklahoma State told me they don’t want to play Oklahoma twice.”

On a serious note, Neinas said: “We fully expect West Virginia will be there.”

Neinas, Luck and Clements tried to keep the focus on the Big 12’s newest member during the packed reception at the school’s football stadium, which included a pep band playing the Mountaineers’ fight song. Neinas even wore a striped gold tie and blue shirt in West Virginia’s school colors.

Neinas said West Virginia’s entrance into the Big 12 was contingent on the university being available next year.

“We needed a 10th member next season to fulfill our TV commitments,” Neinas said. “There’s an inventory that goes with a contract for TV, so we’ve got to be able to do that.”

[…]

Neinas said Missouri is considered a Big 12 member until it withdraws and the league will accommodate 11 football teams if necessary.

“We can do it,” Neinas said. “We don’t have it on paper. But our computers will work out to provide a schedule that will accommodate 11 teams.”

West Virginia wouldn’t simply move into Missouri’s Big 12 football schedule if the Tigers leave.

Instead, “we’re going to have to redo the schedule for a variety of reasons,” Neinas said. “We’re going to have to do some adjusting.”

More here. Among other things, we learn that there are no immediate plans to correct their inaccurate name by adding two more schools. Not really clear what their Plan B is in the event WVU is not available and Missouri has said sayonara, but that’s not my problem. In the meantime, Boise State has received clearance to switch conferences.

The Idaho State Board of Education has given Boise State permission to pursue membership with the Big East Conference, a move that would mean more revenue and give the Broncos a clear path to the Bowl Championship Series.

The board voted 7-1 Thursday to give university president Bob Kustra the authority to move Boise State’s football program out of the Mountain West Conference and into the Big East for the 2013 season.

Kustra has had ongoing discussions with Big East representatives, including during a campus visit by conference leaders last week. Boise State has not yet received a formal invitation to join, but Kustra told trustees he expects one to come in the next few days.

There are two issues to be worked out. One is for there to be some western teams to join Boise State in a Big East West division; I suppose if I can handle a ten-team Big XII and a twelve-team Big Ten, I can wrap my mind around a Big East West. Obviously, schools like Air Force, UH, and SMU would fit that bill, presumably along with Louisville and Cincinnati, if they all join in as well. The other issue is a bit stickier:

Negotiations are also taking place to secure conference membership for other Boise State teams. Kustra said he hopes to solidify membership plans with at least one western conference in the next several days. He declined to identify the conference, but said geography is a key ingredient in finding a home for basketball, volleyball, tennis and other sports.

The Bleacher Report suggests that Boise’s old conference, the Big West, would fit the bill for this. They believe BSU to the Big East is all but a done deal. We shall see.

UPDATE: The Big East says “You’re suing me? I’m suing you!”

The Big East filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against West Virginia on Friday, four days after the university sued the conference in a bid to make a quick exit for the Big 12.

The conference said the lawsuit was filed in Rhode Island Superior Court seeking unspecified damages along with an order requiring West Virginia to stay put for 27 months in compliance with Big East bylaws.

The latest lawsuit underscores the Big East’s position “that it will vigorously pursue the enforcement of its rights and West Virginia University’s obligations,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement.

Marinatto noted West Virginia helped construct the bylaws and formally agreed to them.

Isn’t this fun?

West Virginia sues Big East

The divorce just got ugly.

West Virginia filed a civil lawsuit against the Big East on Monday in an attempt to exit the conference in 2012 to join the Big 12, squarely blaming commissioner John Marinatto for the instability of the conference.

In the 14-page suit filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court in West Virginia, the university claims it should not be held to the 27-month waiting period required of all departing teams. West Virginia alleges, “The Big East Conference and its commissioner, through their actions, breached their contract to WVU and nullified and voided the bylaws.”

How did the Big East breach its contract? West Virginia alleges that nothing was done to protect the remaining six football playing schools once Pitt, Syracuse and TCU left. That created such instability, that the lawsuit alleges Cincinnati, Rutgers and UConn engaged in discussions with the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten.

West Virginia alleges Marinatto failed to take proactive measures to “maintain, let alone enhance the quality of competition in the league” and the school had no choice but to accept an invitation to the Big 12.

A copy of the suit is here, and a good explanation of what it’s all about is here; more on WVU joining the Big XII is here. What happens in this case will likely also determine the fates of Syracuse and Pitt, whom the Big East is also trying to hold through the end of the 2013 season. It’s fair to say that this will have a large effect on the college football landscape. Ready to make up your mind about conference affiliation yet, UH?

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Big East is moving forward on inviting new members, apparently including UH. Something to think about: Currently, the only Big East school ranked in the BCS Top 25 is none other than West Virginia, at #24. Conference USA, with UH at #13 and Southern Miss at #25, now has more BCS-ranked schools than the Big East. Methinks they need UH and Boise State more than UH and Boise State, which could join forces in the proposed C-USA/MWC mega-conference, need them.

It’s official: WVU to Big XII

The Big East takes another body blow.

The Big 12 welcomed West Virginia from the Big East and bid goodbye to Missouri before the Tigers even had a chance to finalize their move to the Southeastern Conference.

Now that the poaching of the Big East seems to be over, the beleaguered league is not backing down. It has been busy courting six schools and says it was braced for the latest loss. And despite what the Big 12 says, the Big East plans to keep West Virginia for two more years — just as it has vowed to keep Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014.

The latest round of conference realignment appears to be winding down, but tug-o-war over who goes where when likely will take a while to sort out.

The Big 12 completed its work Friday by adding West Virginia to become its easternmost member, joining Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa State.

The Big 12 said it expects to have 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, listing West Virginia but not Missouri, which is expected to complete its move to the SEC any day now.

“I wouldn’t say that there won’t be further expansion,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said on a conference call Friday evening. “But our mission was … to move forward with 10 teams at this point. That doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be further consideration. But right now, we’ve got our house in order. We’ve got everybody signed up. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”

So for now at least, Louisville will remain in the Big East despite a late push from Sen. Mitch McConnell to push them ahead of West Virginia. The Big East continues to insist that WVU, along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, will be held to their conference commitment through the end of the 2013 season, but I think we all know that that’s a problem that can be resolved by a judicious application of the checkbook.

Given that, what will the Big East do? The sidebar on this ESPN story says it will continue forward with an expanded version of its expansion plans.

The Big East plans to announce Central Florida, Houston and SMU as future members of the conference, likely in 2013, as early as Tuesday, the source said. Navy and Air Force are being more deliberate and methodical in the process, but the conference is hopeful both soon will follow, along with Boise State.

The conference has statistics it believes shows those six teams in addition to Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati would qualify the conference as a continued automatic qualifier for the BCS. As a 12th member, the schools under discussion include BYU, Army, Temple, East Carolina and Memphis. BYU would be part of a logical Western Division of the Big East.

The Big East believes it would qualify for the BCS because of the depth of the football success of proposed teams in terms of Top 25 appearances and an overall lack of traditional bottom-feeding schools.

While some may suggest an independent school like Navy or Air Force could be available as early as next season, a conference official warned that those schools are committed to large schedules for next season that would create complications as challenging as adding a school from a conference that has exit fee and timeline complications.

I think if the Big East gets the schools it wants that it can survive and could continue to be a BCS conference, but it will be a conference of convenience and not much more. I don’t see a whole lot of traditional rivalries in that group, and the ones that I do see all involve newcomers. What will hold anyone to the conference in the event that one or more of the ACC, SEC, and Big XII decide that 14 and 10 members are awkward numbers to schedule around? That’s the decision that UH now faces.

University of Houston Chancellor and President Renu Khator was granted authority to make decisions regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation during a board of regents meeting on Thursday at UH.

School officials did not publicly discuss any particular conferences. However, the school has interest and an invitation from the Big East Conference, which is looking to expand to 12 football-playing members.

“We certainly want to thank chairperson (Nelda Luce) Blair and the board of regents for their decision to grant our chancellor authority to make any decisions regarding conference membership, conference affiliation that are in the best interests of our student-athletes, staff, head coaches and our athletic department,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said.

The timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.

“We’ll wait and see,” Rhoades said.

I think if you feel reasonably certain that the Big East gets all the schools it is targeting, and that the other conferences are satisfied with what they have for the foreseeable future, then you make the move and hope for the best, even if it means that your biggest rivalry game goes the way of UT-A&M. I have no idea how to evaluate those odds, and no idea how risk averse UH will be. I’m just glad it’s not my decision to make.

WVU to Big XII?

The Big XII appears to have a replacement in mind for when Missouri makes its move to the SEC.

The Big 12 has approved bringing in West Virginia to replace Missouri when the Tigers complete their move to the Southeastern Conference, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the school nor the Big 12 had announced that its board of directors unanimously approved inviting West Virginia when Missouri’s spot comes open.

The move would allow the Big 12 to maintain 10 members and is another blow to the embattled Big East, which already has lost two members and one member-to-be in the last six weeks.

The Big East is trying to reconfigure as a 12-team football league and has been courting Boise State, Navy and Air Force as football-only members and Central Florida, SMU and Houston for all sports. Commissioner John Marinatto met with officials from some of those schools Sunday in Washington.

Since there is no timetable for Missouri to complete its expected departure from the Big 12 — and the league’s board of directors announced that it expressed “a strong desire” for Missouri to stay during a Monday meeting — there is no timetable for West Virginia to receive a formal invitation, the person said.

But the school will accept an invitation once it is offered, the person said.

That news comes at a time when the powers that be at UH are considering their invitation to the Big East, or whatever may be left of it.

UH’s board of regents called for a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation.

On the meeting agenda is a request for approval to “delegate authority to the Chancellor to negotiate and execute a contract for athletic conference affiliation and to negotiate and provide notice of contract cancellation as necessary.”

The agenda does not specify a particular conference, but a person familiar with the Big East’s expansion discussions told the Chronicle last week that UH received an invitation to the Big East Conference.

If school chancellor and president Renu Khator is granted approval to act on conference affiliation on Thursday, the timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.

“Thursday’s meeting is to give our board members an update on conference realignment as it pertains to the University of Houston,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a statement. “There is a great deal of speculation out there, and this meeting will allow us to provide our leadership with up-to-date information.”

The NYT says that the schools that were targeted by the Big East had been told about the possibility of WVU departing, so one presumes this is not a surprise. The question is whether it’s the last domino, and if so for how long.

While Big East officials and athletic directors are confident they will rebuild, there are troubling lingering issues. Does Notre Dame risk further Big East defections? It’s reasonable to expect the Big 12 to grow when it renegotiates its ESPN deal, which expires after the 2015 football season. That would put Louisville at risk of getting grabbed.

And Connecticut is yearning to be in the ACC. So again I say there may not be a Big East for anyone to join. Good luck with that decision, y’all.

Big XII targeting Big East schools

There are still more dominoes to fall.

Two high-level Big 12 school administrators said on Sunday the conference expects Missouri to leave and will act quickly to replace the Tigers, focusing primarily on West Virginia with Louisville as a strong second candidate.

“I think that’s accurate,” one school official told the American-Statesman. “I’d say West Virginia is the leader in the clubhouse. I think we’ll come out better than before. I’d rather be with someone who wants to be with our conference than anybody who doesn’t.”

Asked why the Big 12 would be upgraded, the official said, “West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They’re better, anyway you turn ‘em. The travel’s not good (to Morgantown, W. Va) but that’s it.”

He added there is support for Louisville, but said a lagging football program hurts its appeal.

[…]

A second Big 12 school official told the Statesman he prefers Louisville because of its closer proximity and said travel to West Virginia would make for too big a burden on the athletes.

“The only place where there’s an advantage for West Virginia is better football,” the second official said. “Their academics is not as strong. If there’s any thought about what’s best for the student-athlete, we’ll go with Louisville.”

So don’t start printing those “We’re Moving!” cards just yet, UH. It’s still not certain that there will be a Big East for you to move to.