Trump Picks 'Friend of Big Polluters' for Supreme Court
President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has been criticized by environmental groups and human health advocates, who fear that the conservative judge would side with corporations, limit the federal government's regulatory responsibilities, and gut environmental and health protection if confirmed.
The 49-year-old federal appeals court judge from Colorado has been described as an "heir" to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat Gorsuch would be filling.
During his announcement Tuesday, Trump praised Gorsuch for being a principled constitutionalist. "Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text," Trump said.
Hope you like my nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court. He is a good and brilliant man, respected by all.— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1485920726.0
Gorsuch said in the East Room, "I pledge that if I am confirmed I will do all that my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country."
Several news outlets have noted that his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director under President Ronald Reagan. She has been accused of wanting to dismantle the agency and notoriously resigned under fire after serving 22 months in the administration over mismanagement of a $1.6 billion program to clean up hazardous waste dumps.
Earthjustice, the nation's largest environmental law organization, is calling on the Senate to reject Gorsuch as Supreme Court Justice, citing his history of rulings against workers' rights, that he's a friend of big business, that he has shown hostility to the rights of the disabled and that he has protected police officers charged with excessive force.
Gorsuch is perhaps best known for the case, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, in which he agreed with the majority opinion that corporations are persons and should not be required to pay for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Earthjustice noted that Gorsuch favors limits on federal regulatory power:
- Gorsuch is opposed to the Chevron doctrine, which emerged from the landmark Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council decision of 1984, and held that federal agency experts must have the authority to determine how their regulations should be carried out.
- Gorsuch believes judges should get to overrule agency experts when deciding how to enforce federal regulations. Even the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with the Chevron doctrine.
"Gorsuch has a lengthy record of decisions that seek to benefit corporations and restrict the federal government's regulatory responsibilities. His decisions also reflect a history of limiting the rights of women, the disabled, workers, and many others," said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.
"A review of Gorsuch's writings and decisions indicate that he would seek to overturn well-established Supreme Court precedents and prevent the federal government from enforcing bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act," Van Noppen said. "Gorsuch's record suggests he would take the court in a far-right direction doing irreparable harm to the health of communities, while failing to protecting wildlife, our public lands and restricting efforts to combat climate change."
President Donald J. Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court #JusticeGorsuch #SCOTUS… https://t.co/lc7SIjIjTZ— President Trump (@President Trump)1485922095.0
The international climate campaign 350.org called Gorsuch "a friend of big polluters and a foe of workers, the disabled and the environment."
"With Trump torching the Constitution and the climate, now isn't the time to approve an extreme Supreme Court nominee. Gorsuch is a friend of fossil fuel companies and a foe of workers, the disabled, and the environment," said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. "Millions of people are marching in the streets to resist Trump's radical agenda and our counting on their Senators to join them. This couldn't be a clearer test of whose side politicians are really on."
Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard expressed similar sentiments.
"Neil Gorsuch, empowered by spineless Congressional Republicans and an incompetent and malicious Trump administration, could inflict serious damage to people in this country," Leonard said. "We need the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the people's rights to live free, safe and equal lives and to uphold federal laws like the Clean Power Plan which help ensure our right to survival and limit the human and environmental impact of climate change."
"There is no evidence in Gorsuch's track record that indicates he would be a champion for these legal protections, but an abundance of evidence indicates that he would be a champion for corporate protections," she added. "With this Supreme Court nomination, political forces like the Heritage Foundation and the Koch Brothers are applauding a step towards a democracy powered by the wealthy."
The Center for Biological Diversity said that based on Gorsuch's track record, he will consistently rule in favor of wealthy corporate interests at the expense of environmental safeguards, civil rights and social justice.
Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, also pointed out that Trump's pick for the Supreme Court was made possible only by the extraordinary, unprecedented, year-long blockade by Senate Republicans of President Obama's pick of DC Circuit Judge Merrick Garland.
"We should never forget that this was a stolen seat," Suckling said. "Gorsuch should be filibustered, and every Democrat of conscience should vote against his confirmation. Putting him onto our highest court could inflict incredible, irreversible damage upon our nation's natural heritage."
The Sierra Club, which joined a rally against Trump's pick on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, has also opposed the pick.
We're outside #SCOTUS tonight rallying for a justice who will defend the Constitution. #StopGorsuch #NotOurJustice https://t.co/oKmGLuKhI0— The Leadership Conference (@The Leadership Conference)1485914332.0
"As the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court must be composed of justices that are fair, even-handed, and thoughtful," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch, Donald Trump's choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, is none of those things and must be rejected. Gorsuch has proven himself hostile to environmental protection, women's rights, and the rights of workers and cannot be trusted to protect our air, our water, or our communities.
"The Supreme Court has the responsibility of deciding on the cases that protect everything from our clean air and water to our civil rights and liberties. Gorsuch is not fit for that responsibility. Gorsuch has shown he will prioritize his warped ideological views instead of using our Constitution as a guide. His dangerous views favor polluters and industry over the rights of the people. His record shows that he will limit the access of everyday Americans to the courts and prevent agencies like the EPA from fulfilling their mission and doing their job to protect our air, water, and health. He's even been described as more extreme than Justice Scalia."
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.