Alito Confirmation is a Major Setback for Public Health, Environment

Clean water cases could be first test of Alito's Supreme Court stance


Glenn Sugameli / Cat Lazaroff, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

Today, after heated debate, Judge Samuel Alito Jr. was confirmed by the Senate to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. Forty Democrats, one Republican, and one Independent voted against Judge Alito’s nomination. Judge Alito’s confirmation poses an immediate threat to America’s commitment to protecting safe drinking water and the health of the vast majority of our creeks, streams and wetlands.

“Earthjustice is profoundly disappointed that the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Alito,” said Earthjustice Executive Director Buck Parker. “We knew going in that this was an uphill battle. But the stakes were too high for us to stay out of the fight. The American public needed to know about Judge Alito’s record of siding with polluters over communities.”

Judge Alito received more “no” votes than any other confirmed Supreme Court nominee in the last 100 years except Justice Clarence Thomas.

Earthjustice and more than 60 other conservation groups urged the Senate to oppose the confirmation of Judge Alito due to concerns that he would roll back protections for public health and the environment. That threat is not hypothetical. By June, Justice Alito will have a chance to rule on two cases that could result in the loss of clean water protections that America has relied upon for more than 30 years. Earthjustice has filed a “friend of the court” brief in these cases on behalf of eight environmental groups, joining an unprecedented array of local, state, and federal government officials, hunting and fishing advocacy groups, scientists, and others in supporting protections for all our nation’s waters.

Judge Alito’s record includes decisions that threaten environmental laws passed by Congress, and the ability of citizens and government agencies to ensure that these laws are enforced. His position on l Congress’ constitutional authority to pass laws that protect the health and welfare of ordinary Americans could radically undermine the fundamental safeguards that communities depend upon to protect them from toxic pollution.

From the committee hearings to the Senate’s floor debate to editorials and media coverage across the country, Judge Alito’s extreme record on environmental safeguards was a major point of contention. Many senators, including more than a dozen who had voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts, cited issues that had been raised by Earthjustice and other environmental groups in their decisions to oppose Judge Alito.

“We’re grateful to the principled Senators who opposed Alito’s confirmation,” said Glenn Sugameli, Senior Judicial Counsel at Earthjustice. “Their commitment to protecting the rights and protections of all Americans will certainly be remembered.”

While Earthjustice and other conservation groups expressed concerns about the record of Chief Justice John Roberts, none took a position on his confirmation. In fact, Judge Alito was the first Supreme Court nominee environmental groups had opposed since Judge Bork in 1987.

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