President Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has a well known reputation for ruling against the environment, and against clean air and clean water.
“The vast majority of his rulings have been for big industry polluters, and Republican agencies,” American University law professor and assistant dean Bill Snape told ThinkProgress.
Snape, who is also the Center for Biological Diversity’s senior counsel, briefly set Twitter aflutter Monday when he told BuzzFeed, “I call him Lord Voldemort.”
Snape explained to ThinkProgress that, yes, he knows the Harry Potter stories only too well, and yes, sometimes students do call him Professor Snape, referring to the famous character Alan Rickman played.
But, Snape says, he was being quite serious comparing the judge to the villainous Voldemort. Snape says that Kavanaugh’s rulings on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reveal an “aversion to all science-based regulations.”
Specifically, in 2013, Kavanaugh wrote a majority (2-1) opinion in EME Homer City Generation L.P. v. EPA that struck down EPA’s effort to regulate air pollution that crosses state boundaries, which, of course, is what pretty much all air pollution does. In arriving at this ruling, Snape argues, Kavanaugh “was literally making stuff up.”
“He was requiring EPA to do things that the statute clearly didn’t require EPA to do,” Snape says.
Kavanaugh’s opinion in Homer City was so extreme that the Supreme Court eventually overruled him 6-2. In that instance, both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy voted with the majority — and against Kavanaugh, who managed to persuade only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
“There were thousands of people’s lives at stake with this type of air pollution, and Kavanaugh would have stayed EPA’s role for several years if [it had not been] overturned by the Supreme Court,” Snape said.
For Snape, the ruling “is a bright line on how aggressive and ideological Kavanaugh is, and it is why I call him Lord Voldemort.” Of Trump’s four final candidates, “he is the one who scares me the most.”
Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, environmental groups fret that dirtier air and water could be one result, meaning many Americans might potentially suffer debilitating, or fatal, health conditions.
In the case of climate change, Kavanaugh, who was appointed to the appeals court by President George W. Bush, has consistently argued against EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pollution — including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.
The EPA is, however, legally obligated to issue rules regulating carbon dioxide from existing power plants, based on the Supreme Court’s foundational decision in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, which held that carbon dioxide met the definition of a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Mass. v. EPA was a 5-4 ruling, with Kennedy joining the majority and with Chief Justice Roberts not only joining the minority, but actually authoring a dissenting opinion.
If Kavanaugh replaces Kennedy, that landmark ruling is at risk of either being overturned or rendered moot by a majority that favors polluters over public health and a livable climate. It’s just what you’d expect Lord Voldemort to do.