Neil Gorsuch & Environmentalism: What Are His Views on Clean Energy Laws?

gorsuch environmentalism

Judge Neil Gorsuch (Getty)

Many are worried about Neil Gorsuch’s views on environmentalism and clean energy. As President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, his viewpoints could make a big difference in the future of clean energy. Some are concerned that his opinions might echo those of his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford. However, at least one of his rulings may bode well for environmentalists.

Here’s what you need to know.

A ruling from 2015 in Colorado might show that Gorsuch could be favorable toward environmental laws. In 2015, on a three-judge panel, Gorsuch affirmed that Colorado’s renewable energy law would remain in place and did not violate the Constitution. The law required that utilities get 30 percent of the electricity they sell to Colorado customers from renewable resources. The plaintiff had advocated for a free market approach to environmentalism and argued that the law violated the Commerce Clause and unfairly hurt out-of-state businesses, such as coal producers.

Gorsuch said that although coal producers might be hurt, it wasn’t disproportionately. He wrote:

To be sure, fossil fuel producers like [E&E]’s member will be hurt. But as far as we know, all fossil fuel producers in the area served by the grid will be hurt equally and all renewable energy producers in the area will be helped equally. If there’s any disproportionate adverse effect felt by out-of-state producers or any disproportionate advantage enjoyed by in-state producers, it hasn’t been explained to this court.”

He also noted that even if the law raised electricity prices, Colorado residents had voted overwhelmingly in support of the mandate, so they apparently were “happy to bear” the higher costs. Think Progress touted the ruling as a win for all environmental groups who wanted to promote renewable energy in Colorado. Conservation Colorado said in a statement about the ruling:

Today is a good day for renewable energy in Colorado and our efforts to clean our air and combat climate change. It is time for the climate deniers and dirty energy lobby to end their frivolous lawsuits and recognize that clean, renewable energy is here to stay.”

Despite this ruling, some are still concerned that his opinions might echo those of his mother.

Neil’s mom, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed the first female administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency by former President Ronald Reagan in 1981. She served from 1981 to 1983. However, once she was appointed she tried to cut the EPA’s budget by over 45 percent and promote voluntary compliance rather than strict regulations. The number of cases filed against alleged polluters were reduced during her tenure. She also approved pesticide spraying and cut the number of employees working at the EPA.

In 1982, she refused to release documents to Congress after the EPA was accused of mishandling $1.6 billion in a toxic waste fund. She was held in contempt of Congress and later resigned, saying that she couldn’t do her job anymore and believed that she had become “the issue” in the EPA.

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