© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh's Record On The Environment


President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, faces opposition from groups that represent a whole bunch of interests, and that includes environmental groups who worry that Kavanaugh will be more likely to strike down existing environmental regulations. NPR's Jeff Brady has the story.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: It's not that Brett Kavanaugh opposes environmental rules or is skeptical of climate change. In fact, he said that's an important problem that needs to be addressed.

JODY FREEMAN: So he's not a dogmatic judge, but he comes with a predisposition to be skeptical.

BRADY: Harvard law professor Jody Freeman was counselor for energy and climate change in the Obama White House. She says, during Kavanaugh's 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, his skepticism often was directed at agencies that put novel or far-reaching new rules in place. In 2012, he rejected EPA's plan to limit air pollution that crossed state lines. Later, he argued the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan - limiting greenhouse gases from power plants - should have been enacted by Congress, not the administration. But Freeman says the plan was created after Congress failed to act on climate change and was based on the decades-old Clean Air Act.

FREEMAN: When Congress doesn't pass new legislation, when it doesn't update old statutes like the old environmental laws, the agencies are left in this position where they have to adapt those old statutes to new problems like climate change and other challenges that the language doesn't specifically address.

BRADY: That's not the agency's job, though, says Mark Miller, senior attorney with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation.

MARK MILLER: That takes Congress off the hook.

BRADY: Miller says the Founding Fathers intended Congress to pass laws establishing big policies, not the federal agencies whose job is only to enforce them. Miller's group supports Kavanaugh's nomination precisely because of his support for that view.

MILLER: I think Judge Kavanaugh is someone who takes administrative law very seriously and is going to make the agencies stay within their properly delegated powers from Congress.

BRADY: And if Kavanaugh is confirmed soon, that could help Miller in a case where he's representing private land owners before the Supreme Court. At issue is an endangered amphibian called the dusky gopher frog. The question is whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overstepped its authority when it designated protected habitat to help the frog recover. That's the first case the Supreme Court will hear when it meets in October. Jeff Brady, NPR News.


Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues, climate change and the mid-Atlantic region. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.