Saturday, September 29, 2018

Kavanaugh Confirmation Fight Has Consequences for Climate Law

The Supreme Court could hear cases related to the EPA’s climate obligations and other environmental issues.

Kavanaugh (Credit: Alex Wong Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
If Senate Republicans plow ahead and confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the longtime jurist could have near-term impact on a slew of environmental cases.

Among the disputes the high court has agreed to hear this fall:  a case that pits villagers from India against the World Bank in a fight over a coal plant.  If the villagers prevail, it could have worldwide economic and political repercussions.

Several other climate-related issues have a decent shot, too, of getting a future date with the Supreme Court, including one closely watched fight—the “kids’ climate case”—that makes the far-reaching argument that the government must take action on global warming so as not to imperil future generations.

Kavanaugh—currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after three decades of service and dozens of landmark decisions.

Kennedy was often a swing vote on the ideologically divided court, and he played a key role in several major environmental cases.

In 2007, for example, he sided with the court’s liberal wing in the case Massachusetts v. EPA, which granted EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.  A year later, he joined with the court’s conservatives to limit the financial damages against Exxon Mobil Corp. for its role in the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, which coated miles of Alaska coastline with oil. 

Kavanaugh, nominated to the high court by President Trump in July, likely would shift the court further to the right.  But a rightward shift would occur regardless of whether Kavanaugh weathers the sexual assault allegations that multiple women have raised.  If the Kavanaugh nomination is derailed, Trump would likely tap an equally conservative replacement.

There’s a lot at stake for domestic and international efforts to address climate change.  Here are five brewing legal fights in which the future justice could play a role.

Read more at Kavanaugh Confirmation Fight Has Consequences for Climate Law

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