Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court Would Further Endanger Reproductive and Environmental Justice

Brett Kavanaugh at the White House after being announced as Trump’s pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, has a record of siding with big business over the environment. His presence on the bench could shift the Court in a way that would harm everyone for generations to come. This is dangerous for all of us but is particularly dangerous for women, communities of color, and people struggling to make ends meet.

Kavanaugh has consistently prioritized corporate profits over people’s health and lives

Kavanaugh’s record demonstrates a clear hostility towards environmental regulations meant to protect both the environment and people’s wellbeing. He has consistently sided with corporations by minimizing and discounting the harm their pollution causes. For example, Kavanaugh dissented from a 2014 case in which the D.C. Circuit upheld the EPA’s emission standards for mercury and other pollutants emitted by coal and oil-fired power plants. The court noted that the risks of mercury “are greatest for women of childbearing age” because the pollutant “readily passes  . . . to the fetus and fetal brain,” and that children exposed to mercury “during pregnancy have exhibited neurological abnormalities and developmental delays.” Yet, Kavanaugh dissented from the court’s opinion, instead insisting that the EPA give more consideration to the costs imposed on the polluting power plants.

A year later, Kavanaugh once again demonstrated that he is more concerned about money than people’s safety when he struck down the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would have reduced air pollutant emissions that make breathing more difficult. The rule was targeted at reducing emissions in states whose pollutants travel across state lines, increasing air pollution in “downwind” states. Kavanaugh held that the cost to upstream states was too high, despite the fact that the projected reductions could have prevented 34,000 premature deaths.

Kavanaugh’s record also suggests that he is hostile to the EPA’s attempts to deal with climate change through existing statutes. In particular, Kavanaugh claims that the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration Program – which was designed to make sure that polluted areas in the United States don’t get worse – was not meant to deal with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. In a dissent from a case that upheld the EPA’s efforts, Kavanaugh wrote that he believes “any pollutant” should not actually include “any” pollutant.

Who Bears the Burden?: Women and Families

Brett Kavanaugh’s record shows that he is hostile to environmental regulations that would help mitigate climate change and reduce pollution. He prioritizes corporate profits over people’s health and lives. This is bad for everyone, but it is particularly harmful to women, individuals who are already struggling financially, and communities of color.

The effects of climate change, for example, will cause the greatest economic harm to the poorest areas of the United States, as utilities costs are expected to soar and heat wave deaths are expected to drastically increase among people who work outside. This will increase economic inequality in this country. And those most likely to be affected by climate change are less likely to overcome the economic shock of natural disasters as the resources needed to rebuild, such as home insurance, are often prohibitively expensive.

And it’s not just climate change. People of color are far more likely to be exposed to harmful air pollution than white people. Women, and particularly women of color, are already more likely to be working in professions where they are exposed to harmful chemicals and pollutants. And these chemicals and pollutants have been linked to infertility and various cancers.

Brett Kavanaugh has shown us that he thinks money is more important the people’s lives and health. As a Supreme Court justice, he could have a devastating effect on our ability as a country to address climate change and pollution. He has shown that he is willing to strike down laws and regulations that would protect people’s lives and health in the name of protecting corporate profits. These issues affect us all, and we should all demand that our Senators protect us from the devastation that having Kavanaugh on the highest court would likely bring.