Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, announced Wednesday afternoon, sent shock waves across the capital, with experts and pundits rushing to analyze the potential repercussions. For the future of environmental protection and climate action, the news means “nothing good,” according to legal experts.
During Kennedy’s time on the bench over the past three decades, he has served as the deciding vote in many cases, including some landmark environmental rulings. Most notably, Kennedy was the critical fifth vote in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007. This case established two major precedents: that states can sue the federal government for failing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and that greenhouse gas emissions are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and the EPA must decide whether and how to regulate them.
Kennedy’s retirement is “terrible news for environmental law and the protection of public health and the environment,” Patrick Parenteau, law professor and senior counsel in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School, told ThinkProgress.
As most experts agree, Kennedy will almost certainly be replaced with a more conservative judge, tipping the balance further to the right and leaving key environmental protection rulings vulnerable.