Deep Dive Episode 271 – Environmental Enforcement Keynote Address by Senator Dan Sullivan

Our Nation’s environmental laws and regulations are designed to foster the responsible use of natural resources while ensuring air, water, and land that is clean and safe for the citizenry as well as fish and wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and states are tasked with working cooperatively to ensure that these laws are faithfully enforced in a fair, consistent, and unbiased manner.

Across industries, compliance with environmental laws is strongly influenced by corporate culture, or a collection of values, expectations, and practices established by a company’s leaders and implemented through daily compliance-related activities performed by employees. But just as culture influences corporate behavior, it also influences government decisions regarding civil and criminal enforcement, including the targets of enforcement and the penalties and injunctive relief sought for violations. While general enforcement policies and priorities shift from administration to administration, the perception that individual enforcement actions are subject to partisan politics and outside influences risks erosion of the public trust and confidence in these same institutions.

At a luncheon and panel event hosted by The Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project and ConservAmerica, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan delivered a keynote address on the value of transparency and impartiality in environmental enforcement.


Although this transcript is largely accurate, in some cases it could be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.



Steven Schaefer:  Welcome to today’s programming, “Environmental Enforcement: Policies, Priorities, and the Rule of Law.” We are happy to have you with us today. My name is Steven Schaefer, and I am the Director of The Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project. Today’s programming is cosponsored with ConservAmerica. As always, The Federalist Society takes no position on any particular legal or public policy issue. 

We are pleased to have you with us today, Senator Dan Sullivan. In order to get right to Senator Sullivan’s keynote, I will keep his introduction brief, but please check out his full and impressive biography.


Senator Sullivan was sworn in as Alaska’s eighth United States senator on January 6, 2015. Senator Sullivan serves on four committees: the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; the Armed Service Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Senator Sullivan served as Alaska’s Attorney General and Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources.


As commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Senator Sullivan managed one of the largest portfolios of oil, gas, minerals, renewable energy, timberland, and water in the world. He earned his BA in Economics from Harvard University in 1987 and a joint Law and Masters of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1993. Senator Sullivan is a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. And thank you for your service. 


And, Senator Sullivan, I’ll turn it over to you. Thank you. 


Dan Sullivan:  All right. Good afternoon, everybody. And, Steve, thank you for that kind introduction. I’m really honored to be here. 


I’m going to put you guys to work. My staff is handing out a bunch of handouts. We’re going to make this a bit of a work session because I want you to kind of understand what I understand, or at least the viewpoint I have as Alaska’s senator.


But I want to begin by just thanking The Federalist Society. You guys do such a great job. And I truly don’t understand the antagonistic attacks from a lot of my Democratic colleagues, the press, of course. Just look at the history of The Federalist Society, what you’ve tried to do — what you’ve tried to do: bring intellectual rigor to a lot of these topics. And you’ve had a huge impact on the law, on policy, even though you just stated, Steve, you don’t take positions on policy. I guess I get that. But — so thank you.


And just to start out, I always think it’s kind of useful to pay tribute. I’m going to pay tribute to two champions, in many ways, some of your most important members of The Federalist Society. One, of course, is the late great Justice Scalia, who had a huge impact on literally millions of lawyers — young lawyers. 


I have a really remarkable Justice Scalia story. I’ll try to keep it short, but it’s something that really impacted me. When I was in law school—I went to Georgetown—I’d just read the book The Matter of Interpretation, which was really popular back in the day. And it was 30 years ago that I graduated. And I was studying for my con law final—100 percent of my grade—Con Law 1. I’m a first year, and I had just read—no kidding—I had reread the Morrison v. Olson and Mistretta v. USA dissents, these brilliant Scalia dissents. I’m at my local gym on Capitol Hill. I’m walking out of the gym. And I kid you not—I’m walking out—next to me is Justice Scalia, by himself, by the way. So I’m like, “I’m going to do it.” I go up to him. I introduce myself, tell him I’m studying for my Georgetown con law final. And I asked him about his dissents in Morrison and Mistretta and why he thought no one else joined him. These were all 8-1, if you remember. And I had this 20-minute—no kidding—conversation on the street with Justice Scalia. 


So anyways, take my con law final, and we have three questions. It’s a three-hour final, kind of intense, 100 percent of my grade. One of the questions was directly on point with the Morrison v. Olson case. So I’m sitting there like, “Now, should I get the B+ and just cite the eight justices, or should I roll the dice, cite the brilliant Scalia dissent, and either get an A or an F because it’s not the law?” All right? So I do that. I get an A, one of, I think, three or four in the whole con law class of Georgetown. 


And I told one of my aunts this story, and she goes to me, “Well, did you write Justice Scalia and tell him?” 


And I go, “No, of course not. I didn’t write Justice Scalia.”


And she’s like, “You should. Tell him you got an A on your con law final because of his discussion with you after your workout in the gym.”


So I did. One week later, I get a letter back from Justice Scalia saying, “Dear Dan, Thanks for your letter. I’m glad our discussion outside the gym helped you get an A on your con law final. I only wish that when I was a con law professor at University of Chicago, I would have had such an impact on my students.” That’s a true story. 


So, anyways, I’m a big fan, and he’s had a huge influence on everybody, including me.


And then, of course, the other one, whom I miss dearly, was a very, very, very, very good friend of mine—who would love to be on a panel like this today. He’s probably watching down from heaven—is Boyden Gray, who’s been a great supporter of The Federalist Society in so many things that you all stand for, especially on topics like you’re discussing today. 


So what I wanted to talk about, before the panel gets going, is what I consider a troubling trend in federal environmental enforcement policies that undermine the rule of law and good governance and the coming backlash that I am seeing against such policies. And as Alaska’s senator, a lot of my remarks draw on my own experiences in Alaska, which we are often ground zero of with this kind of federal government abuse. And I would call it abuse. 


So let’s start going through my handouts. What do I mean by ground zero? Well, the first handout I want you guys to take a look at — and you’re not the only ones who have seen this. This is the Last Frontier Lockup. Take a look at that. Okay? Now, this is kind of famous back in my state. 


I’m sure some of you will have heard about the Willow case. And the Willow decision recently came down from the Biden administration. This was the handout that I respectfully — I was in the Oval Office. I gave the President of the United States with Senator Murkowski. Congresswoman Peltola and I had an opportunity to make the final case to the President on Willow. And, if you flip on the back—at the time it was 45, now it’s 48—executive orders and executive actions from the Biden administration targeting Alaska, singularly targeting Alaska. It’s unbelievable inside of two years. And again—I said to the President when we were trying to give him the context of the Willow decision—I walked him through this. I said, “Respectfully, Mr. President, this is just wrong that one state in our union is so targeted by your administration. It’s wrong.” 


And I’ll just — just real quick. And then I went through the back. It’s kind of interesting. If you look at the back, it lists the executive orders and then went — and then it lists dates when me, Lisa Murkowski, and it used to be Congressman Young, and now Mary Peltola, went to the White House—those are the dates—to meet with senior White House officials, saying, “Hey, guys. Come on. Stop. How about a cease-fire here? You’re crushing my state — our state.” So we would go to the White House, meet with senior people, and then you’d see how effective those meetings were because they would crush us even more. 


So I handed this to the President. I have no idea if it made an impact, but — so this kind of work—and, again, I’m talking Alaska. I’m talking more than Alaska. There’s a lot of ways federal agencies just look at the law on environmental issues and take actions that I think undermine the rule of law and are an abuse of the government process. 


So let me go through some of the ways in which they’re doing it. The most blatant is just ignoring the law. Okay? If you look back at my little handout, the first one on day one of the Biden administration, the President’s team issued an executive order saying, “We’re not going to do any more leases in ANWR.” Well, some of you might remember in the 2017 Tax Act there was two sections, one on taxes; one on ANWR. That law—it’s a law—passed by the Congress, both houses, and the President said, “There shall — shall, I—Lisa Murkowski and I wrote it—shall be two lease sales for ANWR—that’s it. Biden administration, day one, comes in saying, “No. We’re going to delay that.” Well, that’s just a violation of the law, right? The President’s job is to faithfully execute the law. Day one, of course, they didn’t study it. They just said, “We’re not going to do that.” Okay. So that’s one way. It’s usually not so dramatic like that, just a blatant violation. 


Another way—and this one is really disturbing. And everybody on this panel—every American—should be concerned about this. This administration—again, if you look at the list that we have; that I gave you, that I gave the President, all these executive orders—a lot of these—I count at least four, maybe five—reopen records of decision from previous administrations, previous professional staff: Department of Interior, Corps of Engineers, EPA. They make decisions—this time during the Trump administration, the four years of the Trump administration—on a whole host of things. The Biden administration’s come in. So these are records of decision. It’s over. We’re done. And they’ve come in, and they have said, “We’re going to reopen these records of decision,” sometimes two, three. They’re contemplating, by the way, reopening a record of decision five years old. That is like Banana Republic-ville. That is not the rule of law in any way, shape, or form. 


And what they do is they come and say, “Well” — the real subtext is, “Well, that was Trump, so we’re going to — nothing counted under Trump. We’re going to reopen it.” But what they do is they say, “We’re going to reopen it because you guys didn’t — the previous administration didn’t “consult” enough. That’s for the Ambler mining road. We did an EIS. Took five years; 10 million bucks; started with Obama; ended with Trump; record decision; ready to go. Biden administration says, “Nope. We’re going to reopen that. Start again,” for critical minerals, by the way. The irony of that was the same day the President of the United States held a critical mineral summit at the White House, the Department of Interior said one of the biggest critical minerals deposits in the country, the Ambler Mining District in Alaska, “We’re going to reopen that.” 


“What? Wait. We spent five years, 10 million bucks on that. We consult with every –“


“No. You didn’t consult enough.”


The King Cove Road? Ever heard of that one? Thirty years we’ve been trying to build a 12-mile single-lane gravel road in Alaska for the native people. Almost every single one of these issues helps the native communities in Alaska. And we are winning in court. Of course, the radical Lower 48 environmental groups sued on that. The native people want it. Haaland just — Secretary Haaland a couple months ago reversed that one. “We’re going to consult; do real consultation.” That’s what they said. 


There’s 900 people who live in that community, King Cove. They’re almost all Alaskan native. They’ve been consulted for 30 years, and guess what their answer is? “We want a road.” But Deb Haaland has gone back and “consult,” so we’re starting over on that one. 


The Tongass National Forest, we had a record decision there. They reopened that; started again. This is lawlessness. And what it does it just — there’s nothing final. A recorded decision from the federal government, and this administration, they just reopen it. 


Even the Willow project. That was a final recorded decision by the Biden administration. There was litigation there, and it was reopened again. So that’s another way that — and it’s sloppy. It’s not legal. It’s so easy to say, “You didn’t consult enough. So we’re going to reopen the record of decision and start over.” That’s not the law. That’s the opposite of the rule of law. It’s happening in America. 


Let me give you another example of what they do. And again, it’s part of that list I handed out to you. They foot-drag until it’s too late. One of the executive orders on this chart that’s near and dear to my heart relates to a bill that I got over the goal line, really important bill, bipartisan during the Trump administration for Alaska native Vietnam veterans who served during Vietnam and came home—and it’s a complicated story—but they lost the ability to apply for what’s called a Alaska Native allotment, 160 acres that they were entitled to. We had some changes in the law, so that got changed. 


And a lot of these guys didn’t know that the law got changed. They couldn’t apply for their Native Allotment. Why? Because they were fighting in Vietnam. You would think you’d give them a little reprieve. Fighting in a war that a lot of American men were avoiding, and they come home, they’re treated poorly because they’re Vietnam vets. They’re treated poorly because they’re Alaskan Native, and then they’re treated poorly because they can’t apply for their Native Allotment, which is really, really important to them and their culture. So we got a bill to pass saying, “Hey. We’re going to let them apply.” 


When Secretary Haaland went through her confirmation process, the number one issue I said to her—not oil, not gas, not mining—”You got to help me take care of these Vietnam vets. Help me get these allotments to them. It really matters. It’s the right thing to do: racial justice, environmental equity.” There’s over 2,000 of these Vietnam vets. They’re dying, unfortunately, at a rapid rate. Secretary Haaland committed to do that with me. You know how many we’ve gotten to these vets since they come in? Eight. Why? Because their environmental groups hate this law. Why? Because it gives land to Americans, and they want to lock up all of Alaska. They are totally foot-dragging. 


The window to apply for this ends in about a year. I have called Haaland. I have texted her. Shameful. Shameful what they’re doing to the Alaskan Native Vietnam vets who are getting nothing even though the law tells them they deserve their allotments. Shameful.


And again, it’s not just the Biden administration. You might remember the famous email—it’s out there—when Shell, which was in Alaska, was trying to drill in the Outer Continental Shelf. It took seven years and $7 billion from the Obama administration to get permission to drill one well — seven years, $7 billion after Shell had paid 2 billion for the leases. That was part of the Obama administration’s strategy to foot-drag. How do we know? Because there were leaked emails from the deputy secretary of Interior, then David Hayes, who sent an email to John Podesta saying, “Isn’t this great? They’re pulling out, and we’re not even going to have to pay lease money back to them. We did it.” That’s in an email. Go take a look.


So if you can sense a little bit of frustration in my voice, just think if you’re an Alaskan, and this is how your federal government — by the way, when you take out a lease on federal land, the contract is to actually develop it, not rope-a-dope for seven years like the Obama administration did or the way the Biden administration — this undermines the rule of law. And it undermines people’s faith in their own government. 


Another approach that I saw, particularly when I was Attorney General, was the sue-and-settle approach. I was always wondering, “Wait. Why are these environmental groups suing the Obama administration? These guys are all buddies. They worked at the Center for Biological Diversity together before some of them went off to work in the Obama administration.” Well, they were doing backroom deals that weren’t transparent. 


So if you can tell that this matters to me, it really matters to me because it’s an abuse. But let me give you the real reason why it matters to me. Take a look at this chart. Okay? Take a look at this map. 


This is a map from the American Medical Association, and it shows life expectancy in America. And it’s a little bit complicated to read, but if you look at the whole United States, unfortunately, there’s places where yellow, orange, even red where life expectancy actually decreased in the United States. This is from 1980 to 2014. The reason it decreased mostly in those areas, if you look at it, it’s the opioid epidemic. Horrible. Horrendous. But the areas of light blue, darker blue, and purple is where life expectancy increased in America. Well, guess which place in America life expectancy increased the most by far. Take a look. Alaska. It’s six, seven, up to 13 years if you look at the North Slope of Alaska, the Aleutian Island chain, Northwest Arctic Borough. That’s huge—13 years. As I’m — I take this chart around with me a lot. As I’ve mentioned to my colleagues in the Senate, “Give me a policy indicator more important than the people you represent living longer.” No one’s told me one more important than that.


Now, why did that happen? 1980 to — 1980 to 2014. Why do you think Alaskans lived longer more than anyone? Well, A) they started out at a real low level. These are almost all Native Alaskan communities. So their level of life expectancy was probably the lowest in the country. Then it started to go up. Well, why did it go up? What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. Responsible research development happened: oil and gas, mining, fisheries. That’s exactly why people are living longer. They have jobs. They have clinics. They have hospitals. They have flush toilets that a lot of these communities don’t have. They have gymnasiums—things that in the Lower 48 you take for granted. 


So when I have Lower 48 groups trying to stop responsible resource development in my state, I literally view it as a matter of life and death for my constituents. And that’s why I get frustrated. And that’s why sometimes I get angry. 


Another element — I’ll just show it to you because it was a nice victory for us. I don’t normally tweet a lot. I kind of — I’m a social media guy who’s not much of a social media guy, but I do have a — this page. This was a barrage of tweets. I think it was 21 tweets that I sent out to The New York Times. And the reason I sent this to The New York Times—this was during the Willow debate—the Lower 48 mainstream media won’t write this story. They won’t write the story that Indigenous people in Alaska, for the most part, are very strongly in favor of resource development because it helps them. 


On the Willow project, The New York Times refused to say that. As a matter of fact, they wrote stories saying Alaska Native people are against the project. That was fundamentally false, so I put out a barrage of tweets—21 tweets—saying, “Here’s how The New York Times is false. Here’s the vast majority—not everyone—of the leadership of Alaska, particularly the Indigenous people want this resource development project. Now, it was successful because, after this barrage of tweets, The New York Times actually started writing that the vast majority of Alaskan natives want this project. It took this tweet barrage to get them to tell the truth, but this is why these issues are more important, from my perspective, than even the rule of law.


And it is a little rich—I have to admit—when the Biden administration consistently talks about environmental equity, racial equity, racial justice, and I’m like, “All right. I’m fine with that, but doesn’t that — shouldn’t that include the Indigenous people of my state, the people of color in my state?” There seems to be an asterisk: racial justice, environmental justice for everybody but Alaskan natives. So I feel strongly about this, as you can probably tell. 


So here’s the good news—and I know we got to get to the panel, but—help is on the way in a lot of this, in Alaska and, I believe, internationally, on a lot of these issues. Let me just give you some examples. I think many of us—I certainly was during my time as Attorney General in DNR—we’re getting wise to the sue-and-settle racket. Okay? So when I was Attorney General, I saw, “Well, wait. Why is the Center for Biological Diversity suing the Obama administration over an issue in Alaska?” Well, I’ll tell you why: because they want to go in a back room, cut a nice deal for each other, go to the judge, and say, “Here’s what we’re going to do for Alaska.” Whoa. Where is the state of Alaska? How come we’re not involved?


So when I was Attorney General, I figured this out, and I told my team, “Anytime this happens, you can intervene. You don’t even have to ask me. Move for intervention in the litigation so we have a seat at the table. I’m not going to let these groups, who have no interest in my state’s future, to make the deal with the federal judge without me or my state being at the table.” 


So we’ve kind of broken that racket on sue-and-settle, and even some of the permitting issues that we’ve been working on have provisions. Democrats have agreed with most of them. I’m in every permitting reform discussion going on in the Hill right now, and there’s a lot of them. But we have those in there because everybody knows. This is not right. It’s not transparent. It’s not the rule of law. You can’t let the environmental group, who’s got allies in the Biden or Obama administration, settle a case without the other people involved. So we’re kind of breaking the racket of sue-and-settle. 


The other reason help’s on the way is permitting reform. There’s a renaissance, and it’s starting to happen. And it’s manifesting itself in many ways. This is an issue I’ve been very passionate about, for the reasons you can tell. 


And once again, Alaska has been ground zero on a lot of these issues because when your permitting system doesn’t work, it just leads to endless delays. We have a million examples in my state: roads — roads, bridges, ports, mines, oil, and gas. 


I’ll give you one: the Kensington mine. Some of you may have heard of that. It took—with the litigation—it’s a gold mine in southeast Alaska—it took 20 years to permit. And I was Attorney General at the end of this saga. We lost in the Ninth Circuit. EPA won. They were suing us for a tailings pond. It wasn’t very big. And the state and the company literally threw a Hail Mary pass to the U.S. Supreme Court. And they took it and reversed the Ninth Circuit, which is a common thing that happens in our state. And they agreed with the state of Alaska, and we now have a mine there. And it employs 400 people, average wage over $100,000 a year, average wage — giant economic boost. And the only reason we got it done was this Hail Mary pass to the U.S. Supreme Court that they caught the last second. But without that, we wouldn’t have anything there. Twenty years that took. 


So how do I know we’re having a renaissance? Because there’s a lot of things happening, and there’s a lot of support for permitting reform. 


So I was one of the senators who worked hard on the infrastructure bill. I voted for it. It wasn’t perfect, but it had a lot of important stuff in it. And it had some decent permitting reform in it—not great, but was okay. I’m on the Environment and Public Works Committee. We were the ones who wrote that. 


Five months after the Biden administration’s really big policy that you would think they’d want to support—infrastructure bill—the CEQ put out a rule on permitting that made it much harder to permit projects, particularly energy projects. So I filed what’s called a Congressional Review Act. Many of you know that is. It’s a resolution to rescind the Biden administration’s regulation. And it passed in the U.S. Senate, bipartisan. 


Here’s one of the big reasons it passed: Take a look at the groups that came out in support of this Congressional Review Act. That’s another one of your handouts. It’s everybody. It’s most of America, for goodness’ sakes. And really importantly, it’s a lot of labor unions—a lot of labor unions; the building trades who know that without permitting, you can’t get anything done. And so, this is happening. 


And as I’ve said to my democratic colleagues, “Hey, you guys used to claim that you’re the party of the working men and women, the men and women who build stuff. But every time there’s an issue that pits the men and women who build America and the Lower 48 radical environmental groups who want to shut it down, you guys side with the groups who want to shut down things. I’m with the people who want to build stuff.” And that’s a lot who was in this. So that’s how we got this done. The President said he was going to veto my resolution to rescind his reg, which wasn’t surprising. 


But the other area — so that’s one indication. And as you’ve seen, there’s a huge, now, interest in permitting reform writ large. Even John Kerry and John Podesta are talking about permitting reform. You know, they kind of created a monster, 20 years of delay for the Kensington mine, but now they’re realizing that wind farms and solar farms are also taking 10, 15 years. So look, I’m all of the about energy: solar, wind, hydro, oil, gas. We need it all. But you can’t get it off the ground without serious permitting reform. So that is starting to happen, and I think that that’s great for the country.


Finally, just in prepping for my remarks, it occurred to me the essence of permitting reform in many ways is taking power away from those who have a history of abusing it: litigants; federal bureaucrats; yes, even judges. The debt ceiling deal that just passed had some decent permitting reform in it. Congressman Graves, who we work with a lot, did a great job on that. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start. 


One provision that I really appreciated was the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Mountain Valley Pipeline provision. It just said to the Fourth Circuit, “You’re fired. You’re done. We can’t have judges who think it’s their job to completely, regularly—10 years, I think—stop progress from happening on a pipeline.” So they got fired. Now, a lot of people said, “This is unprecedented. You can’t do that. You can’t tell a court what to do on permitting.” You sure can. How do I know that? Well, read the Constitution. 


But it happened before. When did it happen before? 1973, the freshman’s congressman, Congressman Don Young of Alaska, introduced an amendment to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Bill that built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in Alaska, and the amendment was simple. It said, “No more studies. No more litigation. Build the pipeline.” And it passed. Took it out of the courts. Took it out of the litigants. Just said, “Build it. We’re done.” 


Now, 40 billion — or 19 billion barrels of oil later—one of the most impressive engineering structures in the country, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline that has fed a hungry America with energy, which it needs for over 40 years—that probably would have not gotten it — that probably would not have gotten done without Don Young’s amendment when he was a freshman congressman.


And then, finally, speaking of help being on the way — and again, The Federalist Society has played a really important role. You’re starting to see it in the Supreme Court, in the courts, two cases. You have a handout here. Of course, you guys are all familiar with the West Virginia v. EPA case, the Sackett v. EPA case. These are really, really important decisions. 


Well, we’ve also had some really big victories in Alaska. You may have heard of the Sturgeon case, Sturgeon 1 and Sturgeon 2. That’s John Sturgeon right there on the U.S. Supreme Court, good friend of mine. But he was a guy who said, “Hey, there’s this law,”—ANILCA we call it in Alaska—”that the federal government is not — it’s not implementing the way it’s supposed to be.” They’re abusing the heck out of people like him who is a moose hunter and wanted to go hunting. And the feds told him he couldn’t. He goes, “Wait. I can.” Took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, 9-zip. He won. 


Then it went down to the Ninth Circuit. Remarkably—I’m a former Ninth Circuit law clerk—the Ninth Circuit ignored the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. So what do you think the U.S. Supreme Court did? You might be liberal, conservative justices, but the one thing that unites Justices is they don’t like to be ignored. So they took it up again. Essentially, said to the Ninth Circuit, “Don’t ignore us.” 9-zip, Sturgeon 2, smacked down the Ninth Circuit. But said to Alaskans, “We know how important you are. And we know this law should be implemented the way in which it was written, not by the way some federal bureaucrats are implementing it.” So we’ve had some really big decisions, and I think this is help that’s on the way and really important. 


And then, finally, I’ll just mention, as a U.S. Senator, it’s part of our job to help tell the story, which is why I went on a little bit long here, but to just give you the perspective of what’s happening. So, for example, whenever I—and I do this a lot—I’m very serious about my advice and consent role as a U.S. senator. I meet with all the Ninth Circuit judges, all the D.C. circuit judges, of course, all the Supreme Court Justices. And I give them cases to read before they come meet with me: Sturgeon 1, Sturgeon 2, U.S. Supreme Court cases, and we discuss them. And I discuss these issues with them. 


I will admit I had one judge—Trump administration, Ninth Circuit—came into my office. I said—I forgot his name—”Did you read my Supreme Court cases and Ninth Circuit decisions that I asked you to review?” 


“Senator, I didn’t have time.” 


I’m like, “Well, I don’t have time for this meeting. So why don’t you go do your homework assignment, come back when you’re ready, and then we’ll talk?” 


But all the other ones do it, and I think it’s important. But some habits are hard to break, I will admit. This is a recent letter—May 10th; it’s in your packet—from me and Lisa Murkowski to the EPA administrator. What are they doing? The EPA, with—which group here? Earthjustice—came up with a consent decree involving Alaska, interior Alaska, on air quality. Guess who wasn’t invited to be involved in that consent decree? The state of Alaska. You think that’s going to fly? No way. So I have a hold on some nominees. I won’t mention who, but for the EPA, until we get answers on this stuff. This is ridiculous. And it’s what undermines people’s faith in the law. And whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, that’s not good for the country.


So we have a lot of work to do. As you can tell, I care deeply about this issue. But it’s not just me. It’s the people I represent. And they see this, and they don’t like it. And they know something’s amiss. 


So I hope the panel discusses some of these. I’m going to hang out for a little bit and watch. But it’s great that The Federalist Society’s working on these important issues. And it’s great that—to be honest—we are making some progress in these areas, but we got a long way to go. And the most important thing we can do is bring the people’s trust in their own federal government back to them because, in my state, we don’t have it. And that’s why I presented the President of the United States this handout, saying, “Mr. President, respectfully, enough. Enough. We’re Americans, too, in Alaska, and we don’t deserve this.”


Thank you very much.



Dan Sullivan

U.S. Senator


Energy & Environment


The Federalist Society and Regulatory Transparency Project take no position on particular legal or public policy matters. All expressions of opinion are those of the speaker(s). To join the debate, please email us at [email protected].

Related Content

Skip to content