Environmentalists believe that deferring to agencies, which President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee opposes, is essential to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to protect people from pollution.
The Sierra Club sent a letter Monday to Democratic lawmakers urging them to oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination because he opposes the Chevron doctrine, which allows government agencies wide latitude to interpret the law.
“His stance against the well-established Chevron doctrine will prevent agencies like the United States Environmental Protection Agency from fulfilling their mission to protect our air, water, and health,” Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, wrote to Democrats.
The so-called “Chevron deference” — a methodology created by the 1984 case, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council — states that courts must defer to executive agencies when they are confronted by “ambiguous” statutes.
“While agencies are not directly accountable to the people, the Chief Executive is, and it is entirely appropriate for this political branch of the Government to make such policy choices,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his majority opinion. Chevron essentially instructs the courts to defer to the president in such cases.
Gorsuch, who has been a member on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit since 2006, blasted the Chevron deference as a “judge-made doctrine for the abdication of the judicial duty” in a written concurrence in an August, 2016, case: Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch.
Environmentalists are not amused by the nominee’s anti-agency positions. “Judge Gorsuch has proven through his record that he is willing to limit access to the courts, a dangerous view that will only embolden polluters and hamper citizens when they try to protect their communities,” Brune wrote, referring to Gorsuch’s willingness to redirect executive deference back to the courts.
The White House requested Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Joe Donnelly of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and John Tester of Montana meet with Gorsuch. Shumer’s aides said the New York senator declined in order to learn more about the nominee’s record.
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