Sotomayor’s stance

The little known about Sonya Sotomayor’s stance on environmental issues appears to be enough for most environmental groups to be encouraged by her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The main decision the groups hope is indicative of her environmental views is 2007’s Riverkeeper v. EPA, in which she argued that the Clean Water Act does not allow the Environmental Protection Agency to weigh costs and benefits when deciding the best technology for regulating pollutants. In this case, millions of fish were dying each year when they were sucked into the cooling water intake structures of riverside power plants. To address the problem, the EPA wanted to choose the “best technology” based on both how much the new equipment would cost and how many fish would be killed. The actual best technology could reduce fish fatalities by up to 98 percent—but cost about 10 times as much as other equipment that would save fewer fish.

Her decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in Entergy Corp. v. EPA.

On May 26, the Sierra Club issued this statement: “As we learn more about her record, the Sierra Club is encouraged by Judge Sotomayor’s opinion in Riverkeeper, Inc. v. EPA in which she ruled in favor of environmental protection and against attempts by the government to ignore true environmental benefits when enforcing clean water laws.”

Sotomayor was also part of a still unresolved case, 2006’s Connecticut v. American Electric Power Company Inc., regarding whether greenhouse gas emissions could be considered a public nuisance. The New York Times reported her as saying during the hearing, “I have absolutely no idea about the science of global warming. But if the science is right, we have relegated ourselves to killing the world in the foreseeable future. Not in centuries to come but in the very near future.”