On the Friday night after Gorsuch's nomination, I stopped in Denver on my way home from Nevada. The CO news interviewed Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO) about the nomination. His comment: "I'm looking forward to having a native Coloradan familiar with public land issues on the Supreme Court". Not a single mention about conservative values, or other issues that came up during his hearings. Public lands were never addressed. So why would he say THAT?
My answer is that Gorsuch's nomination, and denying Merrick Garland a hearing before that, has always been about the future disposition of our cherished federally managed public lands. And now, with Gorsuch's appointment, we may very well loose them.
In 2014, the State of Utah appropriated $14 million to launch a lawsuit against the feds to take control of 30+ million acres of public lands in their state. The Utah legislature and governor are bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry. There's supposedly $20 trillion worth of resources, mostly in the form of fossil fuels, untapped in Utah alone, and according to Trump, $50 trillion total on all public lands.
If Utah were to win their lawsuit, other states would follow suit. At the very least, states controlling federal public lands would mean greater access for fossil fuel companies. Worse case scenario, the lands would be sold off by states for cash. The reason - the states with the most federal public lands are the least populated, and have the smallest tax bases. They could not afford to manage them as the feds do, and they're always looking for cash for their state budgets.
I've always believed Utah hoped for (expected) one of those 5-4 decisions in their favor. Scalia's death threw them a curve.
I've always believed it's been at least one of the reasons, and maybe the major one that Republicans refused to let Obama appoint a replacement for Scalia. Sen. Orin Hatch and Mike Lee are both on the Senate Judiciary Committee that refused Merrick Garland a hearing. They also threatened to block any appointment by Clinton if she were elected. $20-50 trillion is a lot of motivation.
There are hundreds of conservative judges Trump could have picked from to nominate. Why the son of Ann Gorsuch, the infamous EPA director during the Reagan administration?
This is really the third major assault on conservation and environmental protection in the past four decades or so. The first was the Reagan administration. He nominated James Watt to Sec. of Interior and Ann Gorsuch to head the EPA.
The second was the Bush administration. It was no accident that Gale Norton of CO was his first and longest staying nomination. She was James Watt's protege.
Now we see Trump appoint the son of Ann Gorsuch. That's no accident either.
Utah has given the feds until December to respond to their demands to relinguish their control of public lands in their state. If the feds don't, they have promised to pursue their case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Remember the Bundys, and their claim that the federal government has no Constitutional right to own or manage public lands. Does Gorsuch agree with that view? And what if the other four conservative justices do too? If memory serves, Gorsuch came recommended by the Federalist Society. You know, those folks who believe the states should be given more power and the feds less.
The Trump administration's would have to defend our public lands against Utah's lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Do you think they would? And vigorously?
I would expect environmental groups to attempt to petition to adjoin the defense against Utah's lawsuit. Gorsuch does not believe environmental groups should be able to become party to lawsuits or the defense against ones like Utah's.
At the same time, Rep. Rob Bishop, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and also bought and paid for by the Oil and Gas industry, plans on urging Trump to undo Obama's Bear's Ears National Monument designation, and even perhaps Clinton's Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument designation from 1996. I could easily see Trump doing just that given his seeming obsession with eliminating any legacy of Obama. Environmental groups would certainly file lawsuits. Where would Gorsuch stand if the case reaches the Supreme Court?
This is why I believe Sen. Corey Gardner was so elated about Gorsuch being nominated that he couldn't help but spill the beans about what the real agenda was behind his nomination.
We've all grown up learning the words to "This land is my land. This land is your land". Maybe not for much longer.