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“With Justice Barrett, a Tectonic Court Shift on the Environment”

“The accession of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court will cement a conservative majority that is likely to give polluting industries freer rein, limit the ability of citizens to sue, and call into question the very basis of the EPA to issue and enforce regulations.”

“Much of the debate over Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court has focused on hot-button issues like abortion, health care, and the integrity of the presidential election. But the decisive conservative majority her confirmation would cement will also have serious repercussions for the environment and public health, with polluting industries almost certain to get freer rein than they have enjoyed for decades, legal experts say.

The transformation of the court that the Trump administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have muscled through since 2017 is likely to hamstring the ability of future administrations to act on threats from tainted drinking water to climate change, say these experts. Together, the new majority’s rulings could undermine not only specific health and environmental rules, but the very basis of government’s power to regulate.

“It’s a tectonic shift,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School. “Just about every environmental law we have could be rethought,” including decades-old protections such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. “This is shaking the foundations of what we do.””

Beth Gardiner reports for Yale Environment 360 October 26, 2020.