The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237

Environmentalists Signal Support for Sotomayor

Millions of members represented by 60 groups favoring High Court nominee


Senate Judiciary Committee members received
a letter today signed by 60 national, regional, state, and local
environmental, conservation and Native American organizations

representing millions of members and supporters. The letter signals
strong support for the Senate to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Judge Sotomayor's record evinces no clear bias in favor of or
against environmental claims," the groups wrote in the letter.
"Instead, it reflects intellectual rigor, meticulous preparation, and
fairness. Her record demonstrates a consistently balanced and
thoughtful review of complex legal issues. She has interpreted and
applied the laws as Congress intended and safeguarded constitutional

The letter precedes Senate confirmation hearing scheduled to begin
July 13. A list of all the groups signing the letter is available at
the bottom of this release.

"Our support for President Obama's nomination of Judge Sotomayor
continues," said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen. "We are
pleased that so many environmental groups agree: Judge Sotomayor is a
fair-minded and experienced jurist whose exceptional legal knowledge
and impeccable record will benefit the Supreme Court and the nation.
Appointing unbiased, non-activist justices to the Supreme Court will
help ensure that the Court's decisions will faithfully implement our
nation's environmental laws."

Despite having spent over a decade on the federal bench as a judge
on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has
participated in relatively few environmental cases. In her most
significant environmental case she wrote a careful 80-page opinion
upholding critical Clean Water Act safeguards. A divided Supreme Court
eventually overturned the only ruling that was appealed -- that the
Clean Water Act precluded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from
using cost-benefit analysis to determine "best technology available" to
protect fish from power plant water intakes. Riverkeeper v. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2d Cir. 2007), rev'd and rem'd, Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, 129 S. Ct. 1498 (2009).

"Judge Sotomayor brings to the bench the most federal judicial
experience in 100 years," said Glenn Sugameli, senior policy counsel at
Earthjustice and head of Judging the Environment, an Earthjustice
judicial nominations program. "As recent, closely divided decisions
demonstrate, the Supreme Court is playing a crucial role in
environmental protections. We anticipate that Judge Sotomayor will
bring to the Court a fundamental perspective of fairness, careful
attention to, and understanding of, environmental and related statutes,
and thoughtful review of complex legal issues."

Within the last few years, Supreme Court decisions on environmental
issues have shaped and greatly influenced environmental protections,

2006:Rapanos v. United States. The
Supreme Court misinterpreted the Clean Water Act and placed water
quality protections for many vital water bodies in doubt when it ruled
in a split decision in this case. The muddied decision led to ambiguous
implementation policies by federal agencies, putting approximately 20
million acres of wetlands and 60% of America's streams at risk.

2007:Massachusetts v. EPA. A 5-4 majority
of Justices ruled that the Clean Air Act gave the EPA authority to
regulate global warming pollution from cars, trucks and other sources.
The dissenting Justices unjustifiably attempted to block the Clean Air
Act's application to global warming pollution and to reinterpret the
Constitution to selectively prohibit citizen and state access to court.

2009:Coeur Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council et al.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Water Act permits a mining
company to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons per day of a toxic
wastewater slurry into an Alaskan lake, killing its fish and aquatic
life. The 6-3 ruling has dire implications for other waterways across
the country and reverses a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that
found the mining company's permit in clear violation of the Clean Water

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.