More than 15 Senators have recognized the high stakes for a wide range of environmental protections in announcing their opposition to the pending lifetime DC Circuit Court nomination of Miguel Estrada. The Senate will vote tomorrow on whether to cut off debate on this nomination to the appeals court that has exclusive authority to rule on whether to enforce or strike down most national environmental safeguards.
Issues raised by the Senators include legal challenges to some of the nation's most important environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. [For a list of Senators who have addressed environmental issues in floor speeches regarding Mr. Estrada, including relevant excerpts, see: Judging the Environment]
The DC Circuit is the most crucial appeals court for environmental protection, hearing the vast majority of cases challenging environmental rulings and regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and other executive branch agencies. Its decisions are usually final, as the Supreme Court – the only court with higher authority – seldom reviews them.
"Mainstream judges are essential on the DC Circuit, which has the power to enforce or repeal environmental and public health protections across the country," said Glenn Sugameli, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm. "The Senate and the American people shouldn't be asked to have blind faith that a stealth, lifetime nominee will reasonably protect their air, their water, and their children."
Earthjustice is one of 14 national environmental groups that have lined up to oppose Estrada's confirmation. Mr. Estrada is only the second of President Bush's pending federal court nominees to receive formal opposition from major national environmental groups. [A letter detailing the groups' opposition is available at: http://www.judgingtheenvironment.org/nominees/page.jsp?itemID=27576168]