Merkley, Whitehouse, Stabenow, Colleagues Release Disturbing Report on How Special Interests Have Blocked Climate Action in the Courts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), today led the release of an extensive report detailing the process by which the powerful and the privileged have captured America’s judicial courts—and the detrimental impacts that manipulation has already unleashed on efforts to rein in pollution and stop the acceleration of climate chaos.  

The report comes as Republicans try to ram through the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a jurist in the same extremist mold. During her confirmation hearings this week, Barrett stated that she does not have “firm views” on the science of climate change or whether human activity is responsible for the changing climate. If confirmed to the Court, Barrett could potentially cast the deciding vote on future climate regulations or legislation.

“Every American should be disturbed by the fact that megapolluters have bought our courts—jeopardizing the future of our health, our economy, and our very way of life,” said Merkley. “If we’re ever going to restore our founders’ vision of a ‘We the People’ government, the public needs to know how we got where we are. We need to pull back the curtain and expose the shady network behind this radical movement to rig our judicial system to put fossil fuel executives’ bottom lines above the public’s health and future. As the future of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance, it’s important for all Americans to know what’s at stake.”

“Big polluting industries will do whatever they can to continue polluting for free, and one of the safest ways of protecting that handout is to ensure courts rule in their favor every time.  That’s why Big Oil and other polluters back a massive campaign to capture our courts and rig our government to let them to keep polluting,” said Whitehouse. “This report shows the American people how this crooked operation is run so they can push back.”

Despite living in the richest country in the history of the world, millions of Americans are living without clean air and water. Millions more are at risk of losing their homes or livelihoods as their communities face more frequent and extreme weather events, including wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and severe winter storms. Analysis after analysis shows that communities of color—particularly Black, Brown and Indigenous communities—are bearing the brunt of these escalating emergencies, which show no sign of stopping as climate chaos continues to spiral out of control.

While the majority of Americans say the federal government is not doing enough to protect the climate and environment, polluters and corporate special interests have spent years working through the Republican Party to fill judicial vacancies with anti-regulation, corporatist judges. Those powerful special interests and the inexperienced, young, and partisan extremist judges they’ve handpicked for Republican-backed nominations have worked to mainstream extreme legal doctrines that make it hard for Congress and federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to do their jobs to address the climate crisis.

The full report is available here.

Merkley, Whitehouse, and Stabenow were joined in today’s release by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).