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July 31, 2018 by Joel Mintz

South Florida Sun Sentinel Op-Ed: Kavanaugh May Limit Environmental Protections If Confirmed to Supreme Court

This op-ed originally ran in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Recent events have underscored the vital importance of effective environmental regulation for Floridians. Blue green algae — apparently caused by releases of contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee — has blanketed significant portions of our state’s east and west coasts, causing major economic losses and posing a threat to the health of coastal residents. Pro-active regulation and enforcement of environmental laws could (and should) have prevented these abysmal consequences.

In fact, lawsuits play a critical role in shaping the laws that guide government regulation of the environment; and the U.S. Supreme Court — which has lately been almost evenly divided in important environmental cases — often has the last word on the government’s crucial ability to protect public health and the environment from the perils of pollution.

President Trump’s controversial nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace centrist Justice Anthony Kennedy on the nation’s highest court is thus a matter of crucial importance for the future of environmental pollution control. Unfortunately, a preliminary review of Kavanaugh’s judicial writings and votes provides little basis for optimism regarding the positions he will take in environmental cases if his nomination to join …

July 31, 2018 by Lisa Heinzerling
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Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

In the fitting last act of his corrupt reign as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt handed a gift to companies who profit from producing cheaper trucks by dispensing with modern pollution control equipment. He arranged for political appointees at EPA to issue memoranda that together promised that EPA would not enforce an existing legal limit on production numbers for the super-polluting trucks.

The memos had all the usual eyesores of Pruitt's approach to governing EPA: disdain for the law, dismissal of scientific evidence, scrambled logic, and contempt for the environmental mission intended for EPA. EPA's case for granting amnesty to the super-polluters was so threadbare that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted an unusual administrative stay of EPA's action while the court was considering a …

July 30, 2018 by Thomas McGarity
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This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect. 

Most of us take for granted the federal regulations that make our air cleaner, our drinking water purer, our food, highways, and workplaces safer, and our economic transactions less vulnerable to fraud and abuse. And few of us realize the extent to which those protections are subject to reversal by federal courts applying legal principles prescribed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be a fervent vote against even well-established forms of regulation.

A telling example of Kavanaugh’s ideological aversion to even minimal government regulation is his dissent in a case in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined SeaWorld of Florida following a tragic incident at its Orlando facility in which a killer whale named Tilikum pulled a trainer off a platform and held her underwater until …

July 27, 2018 by
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Today, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the Environmental Protection Agency officially released its assessment of Chesapeake Bay restoration progress. This marked the formal conclusion of the multi-year process known as the "midpoint assessment" for the Chesapeake's cleanup plan.

2017 represents the halfway point for the cleanup, at which time state and federal partners were supposed to have reached 60 percent of their final 2025 nutrient and sediment pollution reduction targets. Unfortunately, 2017 will go down as another in a long line of missed deadlines for the Bay.

For a quick overview, jump below to check out our infographic.

Several weeks ago, the Chesapeake Bay Program released the official progress data on the 2017 interim pollution reduction targets. The data reveal that for nitrogen, long considered the limiting pollutant in the Bay TMDL cleanup plan, the seven Chesapeake jurisdictions and all sources combined were only a little …

July 26, 2018 by Joseph Tomain
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat, I was interested in his energy law opinions and began reading them together with some of his environmental law decisions. They seem to be written by two different judges.

Administrative law cases can be procedurally and technically complex. The role of the judiciary in those cases, however, is relatively straightforward. Congress passes legislation and directs an administrative agency to address identified problems. Agencies develop the expertise to gather and analyze data and to make choices and issue regulations. Disappointed parties have appeals available to them within administrative agencies and, if still dissatisfied, a party may ask a federal Court of Appeals for relief by way of overturning an agency determination.

The standards for overturning …

July 25, 2018 by Amy Sinden
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation process goes as quickly and affirmingly as his supporters hope, one of the cases he'll hear on his first day on the bench will invite him to consider an imponderable question: Whether it's possible to put a dollar value on an endangered species.

Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will raise an important and long-controversial aspect of environmental law: the use of cost-benefit analysis in agency decision-making. The Court may well be able to decide this case without diving into the most contentious aspects of the long-running cost-benefit debate. Still, it could provide an opportunity for a glimpse into how a new justice would approach a set of issues that, while seemingly technical, are central to deciding the stringency of …

July 25, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court has enormous environmental and public health implications – true of any high court nomination, but particularly true in this case because he would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court's long-time swing vote.

As it stands, Kavanaugh has already had an outsized impact on the shape and direction of environmental law in the United States. A review of Kavanaugh's judicial opinions shows that he has been one of the most prolific writers of environmental law decisions over the last decade on what is considered the nation's second-highest court, and the one with jurisdiction over much of the federal regulatory system. Only one other judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of …

July 24, 2018 by Karen Sokol
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a case about executive power and individual liberty." That is how Judge Brett Kavanaugh started the opinion he wrote for a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was unconstitutional. That opinion is one among many that reflects Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh's belief that administrative agencies are in a constitutionally precarious position that demands strong judicial supervision.

Many believe that, as a result, a Justice Kavanaugh would be a reliable vote in favor of industry and against administrative agencies and the environmental, health, safety, and consumer protections they enforce. Others claim he would be "evenhanded" in cases challenging agency action and simply do his job as a judge by insisting that agencies …

July 23, 2018 by Laurie Ristino
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Scott Pruitt's narcissistic reign as EPA Administrator consumed advocates' collective energies, and rightfully so. It was a drama that recently ended – not via Trump tweet, but by old-fashioned resignation. Alas, this victory's potential downside is that the new guy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, may be more effective at dismantling environmental protections than Pruitt was because Wheeler actually understands how bureaucracy works.

Then, of course, came the orchestrated events surrounding Justice Kennedy's retirement and President Trump's pick to fill the vacancy, thrusting Brett Kavanaugh to center stage. Environmental protection (among other issues) seems imperiled as the Court is poised to take a hard "right" turn if Kavanaugh is confirmed. 

But as we continue to keep a vigilant eye on EPA and the future trajectory of the Supreme Court, let's not forget weighty environmental legislation currently making its way through Congress: the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Yes, you read that …

July 19, 2018 by Daniel Farber
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Presidents control crucial government agencies with authority over the environment, food and drug safety, and workplace conditions. Through various environmental, health, safety, and other laws, Congress has given these agencies broad authority to issue rules and regulations that affect the lives of every American. But current law provides safeguards against arbitrary decisions – safeguards that Judge Brett Kavanaugh would weaken or eliminate if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

These safeguards are designed to promote public input and force agencies to disclose their evidence and reasoning to public scrutiny. Agencies must disclose proposed rules, obtain public comment, and then provide explanations of their decisions. As interpreted by the courts, this means an agency has to provide enough information to allow substantive comments, and it has to give a reasoned …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 31, 2018

South Florida Sun Sentinel Op-Ed: Kavanaugh May Limit Environmental Protections If Confirmed to Supreme Court

July 31, 2018

Pruitt's Super-Polluting Parting Shot

July 30, 2018

American Prospect Commentary: Judge Kavanaugh's Deregulatory Agenda

July 27, 2018

EPA Releases Assessment of Chesapeake Bay Restoration Progress

July 26, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh: Environmental Policymaker

July 25, 2018

What Does Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Nomination Mean for Chesapeake Bay Restoration Effort?

July 25, 2018

Imagining a Justice Kavanaugh: For One Endangered Frog, Might Justice Scalia Have Been a Kinder, Gentler Jurist?