The Corner

Energy & Environment

Judge Kavanaugh and the Environmental Left

Should environmentalists fear the prospect of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice? Most left-of-center environmentalists are convinced that the answer is yes, on the grounds that Judge Kavanaugh has consistently sought to rein in federal regulatory agencies that by his lights appear to be going beyond their legislative mandates. But this shouldn’t imply hostility to the goals of environmentalists — it is just that as a matter of constitutional principle, he believes, correctly, that it is Congress that should be making substantive policy decisions about matters of great significance, such as climate change, not the agencies themselves.

In an interview with Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic, Richard Lazarus of Harvard Law School, a leading scholar of environmental law, spoke admiringly of Judge Kavanaugh, describing him as “a really decent person, with enormous integrity.” However, he also noted that Judge Kavanaugh took the separation of powers very seriously. “If he’s going to find an agency has sweeping regulatory authority, with significant economic or social implications, he’s going to want to find that Congress really intended it. He’s going to want to see specific language in the statute that says Congress really meant to give that authority away.” Viewed through this lens, the issue is not that Judge Kavanaugh objects to environmental protection. Rather, it is that “Congress hasn’t passed a major environmental law since it revamped the Clean Air Act in 1990.”

Having failed to persuade lawmakers to pass climate-change legislation in 2009, many environmentalists looked to the Environmental Protection Agency to do what lawmakers would not. That might have seemed like an expedient solution in the Obama years, or when a Hillary Clinton administration seemed foreordained. But as the environmental Left is learning to its dismay, decisions imposed by executive fiat are easily reversed. If Judge Kavanaugh has a message for environmentalists, it seems to be this: If you want ambitious new environmental policies, you must work through the legislative process, which will necessitate building large and diverse coalitions. I can’t imagine this will be a welcome message. In the end, though, it might give rise to an environmentalism that enjoys broader and deeper support.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Kat Timpf Chased Out of Brooklyn Bar

Fox News personality and National Review contributor Kat Timpf was forced to leave a bar in Brooklyn over the weekend after a woman she had never met became enraged upon learning she worked in conservative media. Timpf, who has twice previously been harassed while socializing in New York City, first described ... Read More
Film & TV

The Dan Crenshaw Moment

Given the spirit of our times, things could have gone so differently. On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” — then adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — it was a ... Read More

The Present American Revolution

The revolution of 1776 sought to turn a colony of Great Britain into a new independent republic based on constitutionally protected freedom. It succeeded with the creation of the United States. The failed revolution of 1861, by a slave-owning South declaring its independence from the Union, sought to bifurcate ... Read More

Florida’s Shame, and Ours

Conspiracy theories are bad for civic life. So are conspiracies. I wonder if there is one mentally normal adult walking these fruited plains -- even the most craven, abject, brain-dead partisan Democrat -- who believes that what has been going on in Broward County, Fla., is anything other than a brazen ... Read More

There’s No ‘Neo-Jim Crow’ in Georgia

In the overtime of the 2018 elections, the Left can’t decide whether it opposes casting doubt on election results or insists on it. In the case of the Georgia gubernatorial election, narrowly lost by African-American activist Stacey Abrams, it’s unquestionably the latter. A cottage industry has grown up ... Read More