Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett repeatedly dodged questions about the scientific reality of climate change during her Senate confirmation hearing last week, and questions asked away from live cameras offered little more clarity.
In written responses submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee and released Tuesday night, Barrett, 48, refused to answer questions about her father’s ties to the American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s largest and most powerful oil and gas lobby.
Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, is a Catholic deacon and attorney who worked for Royal Dutch Shell for decades. For more than 20 years, he was also an “active member of The American Petroleum Institute Subcommittee of Exploration and Production Law” and twice served as its chairman, according to a biography on his law firm website.
A recusal list Barrett submitted as part of her job on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit mentions Shell seven times; however, it does not list API, which spent more than $6.6 million lobbying last year alone.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Barrett in writing if her father’s leadership role at API required her to recuse herself from cases involving the trade group. Barrett referred Durbin to her answer to a previous question about whether there are any other energy companies she must recuse herself from.
“The question of recusal is a threshold question of law that must be addressed in the context of the facts of each case,” Barrett wrote in her response. “As Justice Ginsburg described the process that Supreme Court justices go through in deciding whether to recuse, it involves reading the statute, reviewing precedents, and consulting with colleagues. As a sitting judge and as a judicial nominee, it would not be appropriate for me to offer an opinion on abstract legal issues or hypotheticals. Such questions can only be answered through the judicial process.”
That answer stands in contrast to her written response about cases involving Shell and its affiliates.
“My father worked at Shell Oil Company for many years, and while on the Seventh Circuit, in an abundance of caution, I have recused myself from cases involving those Shell entities with which he was involved,” she wrote.
API wields tremendous influence over policymaking at the federal and state level and markets the industry directly to consumers. Earlier this month, the group released a series of new TV ads that paint a misleading picture of the most recent science on emissions from natural gas.
The organization has been peddling climate misinformation for decades. In 1998, API hatched plans for a multiyear, multimillion dollar campaign to sow doubt about the threat of climate change, including developing a media kit with research papers that “undercut the ‘conventional wisdom’ on climate science,” as detailed in a new infamous memo.
“Coney Barrett’s corporate activism and bent are well-documented, but her nonanswers on these serious conflicts of interest involving one [of] the largest big oil corporations in the world and one of their dirty lobby associations tell us everything we need to know about her climate denial,” Jayson O’Neill, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Accountable.US, told HuffPost in an email. “And, it’s clearly disqualifying.”