THE LIGHTBULB

Judge Brett Kavanaugh tried to buff up his green bona fides during his third day of confirmation hearings. But he was quickly rebuffed by the very environmentalists with whom President Trump's Supreme Court nominee claimed he once sided.

Testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Kavanaugh justified his record  of reining in environmental regulations as an overall even-handed approach — occasionally favoring industry and occasionally favoring environmentalists.

"I'm a pro-law judge," Kavanaugh said, "and in an environmental cases, in some cases I've ruled against environmentalist interest and in many cases I've ruled for environmentalist interest."

Kavanaugh's defense comes as Democrats step up their criticism of the the conservative judge for tilting the scales in favor of big industry. They are attempting to cast Kavanaugh's environmental record as yet another reason, alongside abortion and guns, to oppose his nomination. As the hearing continued Thursday, Democratic senators on the Environmental and Public Works Committee held a press conference on Capitol Hill highlighting what they say Kavanaugh "falsely claimed" about his environmental record.

As an example of his environmentally friendly rulings, Kavanaugh offered a 2014 case called Natural Resources Defense Council v. Environmental Protection Agency during the hearing.

In a 3-0 decision written by Kavanaugh, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that manufacturers of cement could not get out of complying with EPA restrictions on emitting soot, lead, arsenic and other pollutants if their pollution-control equipment accidently breaks. 

 "That was a big money case," Kavanaugh said.

But some outside legal experts, along with many environmental groups party to the suit, disagree with how Kavanaugh characterized that lawsuit, saying the judge agreed with the environmentalists on just a procedural matter.  

One of those critics is John Walke. As one of the lawyers that NRDC, an environmental nonprofit, sent to Kavanaugh's court to argue its case, he is in a position to know. 

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Walke said Kavanaugh ignored the rest of the ruling during the confirmation hearing. The court rejected three of the four arguments the environmental groups made to it concerning the cement rule issued under President Barack Obama, including one that it was simply "unlawfully weak."

“On the core environmental safeguards and issues in the rule, it was a negative ruling for environmentalists' interests," Walke said in an interview with The Post. "He mentioned none of that. In fact, by omission, I felt like he was mischaracterizing the central gist of his ruling.”

Another party with NRDC in the case, the Sierra Club, agrees that case has little to offer environmentalists. "In fact, that has been true of the overwhelming majority of his writings and his rulings throughout his career," said Courtney Hight, director of the organization's democracy program.

Columbia environmental law professor Michael Gerrard added that it was "a stretch to call this a pro-environmental decision."

"Kavanaugh's decision sided with the cement industry on all the substantive issues regarding emissions limitations, and with NRDC on one procedural issue," Gerrard said.

During his 12-year tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh has followed a judicial philosophy of giving agencies more regulatory authority only when Congress has clearly written that is what it want. In practice, that means the judge was often suspicious of Obama-era EPA regulations that attempted to tackle new environmental problems, like climate change, with old environmental laws, many of which date back to the 1970s.

POWER PLAYS

— Round up the usual suspects: Trump's various environmental ministers are all denying that they are the author of the scathing op-ed in the New York Times that described the president as "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective." Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke each issued statements more emphatic than the last.

— Another Trump nominee withdraws: Steven Gardner, Trump’s nominee to lead the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, on Thursday withdrew his name from consideration. A lengthy ethics review process was the issue, Gardner said. “This decision was very difficult for me and comes after almost a year of back and forth with the Office of Government Ethics over the conditions for an ethics agreement,” Gardner told Bloomberg Environment in an email. 

— “The parties have to come together:” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) called for bipartisan cooperation on climate change efforts. “It’s not a question of ‘can,’ the parties have to come together,” Fitzpatrick said during an event hosted by The Hill and the Bipartisan Policy Center. “These purely partisan solutions are never going to work, because you’re never going to get the votes you need to pass. We’re trying to get something across the finish line to advance the goal.” Fitzpatrick has supported a carbon tax bill introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), which has earned support from environmental organizations but that has been dismissed by a majority of his fellow Republican colleagues.  

— Crowd crop: A government photographer cropped an official image of Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd size seem larger after the president himself personally intervened, according to released Interior Department records, a Guardian investigation revealed. The National Park Service photographer cropped the image “where the crowd ended” for pictures “requested by Trump on the first morning of his presidency, after he was angered by images showing his audience was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009,” according to the report. 

THERMOMETER

— California just burned through its firefighting budget: The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is calling on state lawmakers to provide $234 million more for its budget to fight wildfires, according to the Associated Press, after it spent more than $430 million through the end of August. Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott told lawmakers the money would be used to hire additional firefighters and add helicopters, per the AP.

— Man, it’s a hot one: The low temperatures averaged across the Lower 48 states were the warmest in 120 years of records, The Post’s Jason Samenow reports. The result: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the 2018 summer ranked as the fourth-warmest on record, tied with 1934.

— One of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded was set off three years ago by a melting glacier: New research describes how one of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded occurred three years ago and was connected with the melting of a glacier and led to a “devastating wave that stripped shorelines of trees and reached heights greater than 600 feet,” The Post’s Chris Mooney reports. The October 2015 tsunami in southeastern Alaska was the fourth highest recorded in the last century, and signals the type of event that may occur with more frequency as the warming globe leads to similar glacial retreat. "More such landslides are likely to occur as mountain glaciers continue to shrink and alpine permafrost thaws,” the authors wrote in Nature Scientific Reports.

— Storm watch: Hurricane Florence weakened substantially Thursday, and was downgraded to a tropical storm after rapidly strengthening Wednesday into this Atlantic season’s first major hurricane. But we’re not out of the woods yet since the "storm is predicted to re-strengthen to a hurricane over the weekend and cautionary alarm bells are ringing that it may have some effect on the East Coast in about a week,” The Post’s Brian McNoldy and Samenow report.

OIL CHECK

— Everyone wants to be in Silicon Valley: Saudi Aramco is considering launching a $1 billion venture capital fund for technology investments that would complement the company’s operations but are not necessarily energy-focused, the Wall Street Journal reports. Saudi Aramco is mulling opening an office in Silicon Valley or elsewhere in the United States.

— The road ahead for Tesla: Andrew Left, a prominent short-seller who founded Citron Research, has filed a class-action suit against Tesla chief executive Elon Musk charging that Musk “fraudulently engineered his since-abandoned plan to take Tesla private to ‘burn’ investors hoping the electric car company’s stock price would fall,” Reuters reports. It’s just one of several legal challenges that have been brought against the automaker’s notorious leader since his surprise announcement that he was considering taking Tesla private.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources on Environment holds a hearing on water resources.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— Alabama residents clean up after Tropical Storm Gordon: