‘Our communities are safer, healthier’: RBG’s unsung role in environmental progress

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday, leaving in her wake a legal and cultural legacy, and new questions less than 50 days from the November election.

Days before her death, she dictated to her granddaughter that, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” President Trump has promised to nominate her successor this week. While not her passion, Ginsburg played a key role in multiple environmental and climate change cases that came before the Court, including her authorship of a 2014 ruling that upheld an EPA rule limiting air pollution that crosses state lines and a ruling in 2000 that eased standing requirements in environmental suits.

“Our communities are safer, healthier and more free because of RBG,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said.

If Ginsburg’s replacement is named by President Trump, however, the environmental implications could be enormous. Amy Coney Barrett, an early frontrunner for Trump’s promised nomination, is seen as skeptical of a doctrine, known as Chevron deference, critical to environmental protection. In close cases challenging administrative agencies’ interpretation of federal law, Chevron essentially gives the tie to the agency.

The two justices already appointed by Trump to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, have also expressed skepticism toward Chevron. If it were overturned, the impact on all manner of government regulations, including environmental protections, would be enormous.

Ginsburg was the legal architect of women’s rights in the 1970s, and the feminist icon was an inspiration for countless women in and outside of the legal profession. She also became prominent in popular culture over the last decade, popularized on the internet as “The Notorious RBG.”

Outside New York’s Superior Court, Sara McKay, her wife, and their two sons joined hundreds of others — and thousands around the country — in mourning. “My 11-year-old tucked me in last night because I was so sad,” McKay told The Cut.

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