This op-ed originally ran in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Recent events have underscored the vital importance of effective environmental regulation for Floridians. Blue green algae — apparently caused by releases of contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee — has blanketed significant portions of our state’s east and west coasts, causing major economic losses and posing a threat to the health of coastal residents. Pro-active regulation and enforcement of environmental laws could (and should) have prevented these abysmal consequences.
In fact, lawsuits play a critical role in shaping the laws that guide government regulation of the environment; and the U.S. Supreme Court — which has lately been almost evenly divided in important environmental cases — often has the last word on the government’s crucial ability to protect public health and the environment from the perils of pollution.
President Trump’s controversial nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace centrist Justice Anthony Kennedy on the nation’s highest court is thus a matter of crucial importance for the future of environmental pollution control. Unfortunately, a preliminary review of Kavanaugh’s judicial writings and votes provides little basis for optimism regarding the positions he will take in environmental cases if his nomination to join the Court is confirmed.
Kavanaugh has served for 12 years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit, an intermediate federal court that handles numerous appeals from challenges to the actions of EPA and other federal agencies with environmental responsibilities. With only a small number of exceptions, his opinions have narrowly construed the authority of EPA and favored polluting industries over environmental interests.