(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Seventeen major environmental groups are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to hold prompt confirmation hearings and a vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

In a brief but pointed letter to be sent to the offices of McConnell and Reid on Tuesday, leaders of the groups argue that Obama has the right to fill Supreme Court vacancies during the entirety of his term, and that it is the Senate’s duty to move the process forward. The letter is signed by leaders of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth, Earthjustice and others.

It is the largest coordinated effort by environmental organizations to weigh in on the Supreme Court nomination process, said Dan Byrnes, a spokesman for the Sierra Club.

“There is ample precedent for a nominee to be confirmed in election years, even when the Senate and White House are controlled by opposite political parties,” the letter says. “Willful obstructionism is simply a dereliction of duty, and not what the American people expect from their elected representatives.”

The environmental coalition did not specify a nominee they support. Obama is expected to name a nominee this month.

The move is the latest in a flurry of activity from left-leaning interest groups to pressure the Senate to consider Obama’s nominee. The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee said last month that it will not hold hearings or meet with a nominee until after the next president is elected.

The letter goes on to emphasize the critical role the nation’s courts play in protecting the environment.

“In an era when powerful interests who profit from pollution have an unprecedented level of access and influence, it is imperative that we have functioning courts — particularly our nation’s highest,” the letter says. “This is not the time to hobble our judiciary with extended vacancies caused
by political gamesmanship.”