Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s role in several rulings in favor of the oil and gas industry and against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been put under the spotlight after his wife reportedly struck a potentially lucrative deal with an energy company.
In June 2022, Martha Ann Bomgardner Alito agreed to lease a 160-acre plot of land in Grady County, Oklahoma, to Citizen Energy III — a private oil and gas company — according to a document published by The Intercept.
The document states 3/16ths of the money made from the extraction of oil and gas from the land would go to Martha Alito.
Such a scenario could amount to a small fortune for the Alito family, while highlighting Justice Alito’s role in several Supreme Court rulings in favor of America’s oil and gas industry.
“There need not be a specific case involving the drilling rights associated with a specific plot of land for Alito to understand what outcomes in environmental cases would buttress his family’s net wealth,” Jeff Hauser, founder and director of the watchdog Revolving Door Project, told The Intercept.
A spokesperson for Justice Alito did not immediately respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.
Rulings in favor of oil and gas
Alito has served as a justice of the Supreme Court since Jan. 31, 2006. Supreme Court justices are not legally bound by a code of ethics but are required to file financial disclosures under the Ethics in Government Act.
They also have the choice to recuse themselves from cases where there’s a potential conflict of interest, which Bloomberg reports Justice Alito has done so dozens of times on account of his stock holdings.
Before the lease agreement between his wife Martha and Citizen Energy III became active last year, Justice Alito listed “mineral interests” worth between $100,001 and $250,000 in his financial disclosures, according to The Intercept.
Justice Alito had previously heard a number of environmental cases, many of which ended up bolstering the energy industry, although none implicated Citizens Energy III.
For instance, in 2015 Justice Alito ruled in favor of Oklahoma-based Oneok, one of the largest suppliers of natural gas in the country, in its fight against Learjet. The ruling staved off an attempt to block state antitrust laws from being applied to natural gas companies under the Natural Gas Act.
Oneok runs an active natural gas pipeline through the Alito plot, according to The Intercept.
In 2021, Justice Alito supported a ruling that allows companies with federal backing to exercise eminent domain in the seizure of state property — aiding pipeline development across America.
Action against the EPA
Justice Alito has supported two major rulings against the EPA recently.
Last year, he backed a conservative chorus in a landmark decision against the Clean Air Act in West Virginia v. EPA, which fenced the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
In May 2023, Justice Alito wrote a majority opinion in Sackett v. EPA, which ruled that tens of millions of acres of wetland were no longer protected by the Clean Water Act.
The ruling caused outrage among environmentalists and scientists. Even President Joe Biden released a statement saying the ruling took America “backwards.”
“It puts our nation’s wetlands — and the rivers, streams, lakes and ponds connected to them — at risk of pollution and destruction, jeopardizing the sources of clean water that millions of American families, farmers and businesses rely on.”
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