BAR HARBOR — Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, stood up for the health and safety of all Americans by voting against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was the former attorney general of Oklahoma who regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections, but unfortunately he was confirmed in a close vote.

With Pruitt at the helm of the EPA, clean air and water in Maine, and the health of citizens across the nation, are at risk. The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia is an even more important vote.

Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, has a record of extreme positions that proves he is too far outside the mainstream and too hostile to the environment for this critically important position. Gorsuch has been described as more extreme than Scalia, the most anti-environment justice in recent Supreme Court history.

Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy will limit the access of everyday Americans to the courts and prevent agencies like the EPA from doing their job to protect our air, water and health. This is a dangerous view that will favor polluters and industry over the rights of the people.

On at least three separate occasions, Gorsuch has denied access to the courts for environmental groups. Environmental laws without citizen access to the courts to enforce them are a hollow promise. Citizen suits are the hallmark of our environmental law safety net, yet Gorsuch has a track record of rulings that keep citizens from enforcing the law and that threaten the health of all of us.

Gorsuch is also a firm opponent of the Chevron doctrine: the common-sense rule that courts should defer to the technical and scientific expertise of agencies charged with administering our laws. Without the widely accepted Chevron doctrine, the EPA would have a harder time carrying out its mission and polluters would be emboldened to constantly challenge our environmental safeguards. Gorsuch’s position is worrisome; we need health, safety and environmental standards that are based in sound science, not politics.

Collins, the only Republican who voted against Pruitt’s nomination, defended the EPA when she announced she would oppose the confirmation of Pruitt for EPA chief, saying, “The EPA plays a vital role in implementing and enforcing landmark laws that protect not only our environment but also public health.” If she believes this to be true, she should also oppose Gorsuch.

With so much at stake, we need independent judges who will be a check on Donald Trump when he violates the law or the Constitution. Trump has already overstepped his authority with sweeping executive orders that have been overturned by courts and he has shocked the nation with attacks on the independence of our judiciary.

I have worked for federal judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats. To a person, these judges have valued and embodied the essential role that an independent judiciary plays in our constitutional democracy. Adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution in the face of political pressure is a fundamental cornerstone of this role. Gorsuch’s troubling history of deference to executive power shows that he will not be that independent voice.

Unless Republican leaders violate well-accepted precedent, Gorsuch will need 60 votes to be confirmed. We must hold the Senate to that 60-vote threshold. Anyone who is receiving a lifetime appointment to the most important judicial position in the world should have the confidence of more than a mere majority of the U.S. Senate. Gorsuch’s views place him too far out of the judicial mainstream to earn such support.

Collins and King must raise their voices with us and reject Neil Gorsuch, as they did with Scott Pruitt.


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