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Why Are Democrats Silent on Climate During the Amy Coney Barrett Hearings?

Amy Coney Barrett refuses to agree that humans contribute to climate change, while Democrats fail to ask her to recuse herself from a landmark climate case involving Shell, the oil company that employed her father. Democrats must bring up the climate in Barrett’s confirmation hearings — the future of our planet is at stake.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds-Pool / Getty Images)

In an exclusive report on Tuesday night, The Daily Poster broke the news that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has direct ties to Shell Oil and could be on the court as it hears the oil giant’s new appeal to try to permanently crush climate litigation. If Barrett is confirmed and she refuses to recuse herself, she could help decide that landmark case, which could determine the future of all climate policy for the next few decades.

Now, only hours after the story broke, Barrett used her confirmation hearing to effectively deny climate change — and Democrats went silent.

“I don’t think I am competent to opine on what causes global warming or not,” Barrett said when asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) whether she believes humans cause global warming. “I don’t think that my views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge, nor do I feel like I have views that are informed enough, and I haven’t studied scientific data. I’m not really in a position to offer any kind of informed opinion on what I think causes global warming.”

So far, during the confirmation hearings, there have only been two cursory questions about climate change — even though the Supreme Court will be playing a central role in any and all climate policy at the very moment climate change threatens to upend the economy and render large swaths of the United States uninhabitable.

Neither Blumenthal nor any other Democratic senator bothered to ask about Barrett’s ties to Shell — even though the Supreme Court just agreed to hear a case involving the company, which employed Barrett’s father for decades as a top lawyer. In that case, Shell and other oil giants are asking the court to require climate cases to be heard in federal court, where conservative-dominated benches are typically more friendly to big corporations.

Barrett has listed Shell Oil on the official list she uses to recuse herself in her work on the Seventh Circuit Court. However, Barrett asserted yesterday that high court justices get to decide on their own whether or not they will recuse themselves from cases.

“Justice Ginsburg, in explaining the way recusal works, said that it’s always up to the individual justice, but it always involves consultation with the colleagues — with the other eight justices,” Barrett said.

The lack of interest in Barrett’s views on climate change and her ties to Shell among Judiciary Committee Democrats is notable, considering that the panel includes Democratic lawmakers who represent states and cities that could be impacted by the Shell case. Among the cases at risk are Rhode Island v. Shell, County of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp., and City of Oakland v. BP.

The Judiciary Committee includes Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as California senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee. Whitehouse has filed an amicus brief in support of his home state of Rhode Island in the case that the Supreme Court’s decision could impact.