November 18, 2018
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If he’s confirmed for the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will put polluters’ interests first

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

The U.S. Senate should not consider the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh until senators have had an opportunity to fully review the work he did as part of the Bush White House.

That said, there is plenty of evidence from his time as a judge to show that Kavanaugh would be disastrous for the environment if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For more than six years, I have worked to protect some special places in Maine. Our environment and natural resources are the keys to our health and state’s economic well-being.

Maine has tremendous potential to grow its outdoor recreation economy and food and agricultural businesses, both of which rely on clean air and water.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, his judicial record suggests he would favor polluters and big business over the environment.

In 2006, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Kavanaugh would replace, cast the deciding vote in Rapanos v. United States, a critical case that determined that small streams are subject to the Clean Water Act.

According to Kennedy’s opinion, the small streams have a significant impact on the health of rivers downstream.

The other conservative justices on the court disagreed. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he could become the deciding vote to limiting the application of the Clean Water Act.

This is critical for Maine. Our state has more than 1,000 miles of small streams used for drinking water. Maine’s small streams also are critical habitat for our fisheries and other wildlife.

As a fisherman and guide, I believe sportsmen should be concerned about the health of our state’s water, regardless of whether it’s in a small stream, a large river or along our coast.

Kavanaugh’s record as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia shows he has consistently voted against protecting the environment.

He has gone so far as to support a coal mining company after it dumped waste into six miles of streams, completely destroying them.

Last month, 25 environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, warning of the implications for the environment if Kavanaugh is confirmed.

“His hundreds of judicial opinions and legal writings reveal a judicial philosophy that is hostile to the power of government (especially agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency), and that values corporate profits over the people and the health of the public,” the letter says.

George Smith, in his Outdoor News column, outlined several of the Kavanaugh’s opinions to make a similar case.

Kavanaugh has argued against limits on mercury pollution and for chemical companies.

And, crucially for Maine, he tried to end a rule that limits air pollution that crosses state lines. His decision in that case was rejected by the Supreme Court, with Kennedy, who he will replace, voting to overturn.

Because of our location, Maine suffers as the wind brings pollution to our state from polluters thousands of miles away. Our health — and the health of our economy — depends on reducing these dangerous emissions.

“Environmental pollutants carried by … winds lead to high levels of airborne particulates, soot and ozone, making Maine the ‘tailpipe of the nation,’” Dr. Peter Millard, a family physician and epidemiologist, wrote in the Bangor Daily News in 2016.

That pollution contributes to higher than average levels of asthma and too many unhealthy air quality days.

There are many arguments to be made against Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court: the risk he poses to Roe v. Wade, the threat to tip the balance of power too far to the executive branch, the lack of disclosure of his record. Those are real and serious.

But it would be a mistake to overlook Kavanaugh’s record on the environment and the impact he could have on our state.

As the letter from the environmental groups makes clear, “Judge Kavanaugh’s approach to the law threatens key elements of environmental and public health protections, and makes it harder for people to hold the government and big corporate polluters accountable.”

Elections have consequences and President Donald Trump can nominate his choice for the Supreme Court. But the Senate also has an obligation and responsibility to scrutinize that nominee and say “no” if the record demands.

Kavanaugh has distinguished himself with his judicial record as an opponent of reasonable efforts to control pollution and protect clean water and public health. His nomination should be rejected.

Lucas St. Clair ran for the Democratic nomination for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. He is the president of an environmental nonprofit focused on land conservation and rural economic development.

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