Exxon Mobile executives already have appeared twice at Senate hearings attempting to justify the corporation's record profits. Noting that only 27 percent of the $8.4 billion first quarter profits were earned domestically, Exxon officials said, this week, the earnings reflect the global market and not just the United States. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called for an investigation to determine if there is any evidence of price gouging. The Tennessee Republican said mounting public pressure could force Congress to intervene. And while the Legislative and Executive branches of American government wrestle with higher fuel prices, the Judicial branch has been occupied with other matters -- including a conflict pitting the North against the South over the Missouri river.
Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand three lower court Missouri River rulings, which included giving priority to navigation over recreation and environmental concerns.
In one of the three cases, conservation groups argued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the river, needed to do more under the Environmental Protection Act to safeguard endangered fish and birds.
In another case, North Dakota and South Dakota demanded a higher priority given to the multimillion dollar fishing business which could suffer from a loss of water being directed downstream.
North Dakota's Attorney General called the Supreme Court's decision disappointing. He noted, "What we now have is a contorted view that for some reason the meager and puny navigation industry is entitled to priority over much more robust uses."
But further downstream, where barge traffic is heavier, Missouri's Attorney General said he was pleased with the outcome. Two days later however, he announced plans to file another lawsuit against the Army Corps. This time, he wants to prevent the Army Corps' planned use of a man-made spring rise to encourage spawning by the endangered pallid sturgeon. If this occurs in early May as planned, some fear low-lying Missouri farmland could be flooded.
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said, "Releasing water during a time of year when the lower Missouri River Valley experiences frequent rainstorms substantially increases the risk that prime farmland will be flooded and that many Missouri farmers will take a financial hit."
Meanwhile, the Army Corps said it is doing its best to balance the needs of all interests along the river. While a May water release from an upstream reservoir is planned, the Army Corps says it will cut back or cancel the release if there is a risk of downstream flooding.