Samuel Alito’s Wife Leased Land to an Oil and Gas Firm While the Justice Fought the EPA - The Intercept

…In a lease filed with the Grady County clerk, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito entered into an agreement with Citizen Energy III for revenue generated from oil and gas obtained from a plot of hard scrabble she inherited from her late father. It is one of thousands of oil and gas leases across Oklahoma, one of the top producers of fossil fuels in the United States.

Last year, before the lease was activated, a line in Alito’s financial disclosures labeled “mineral interests” was valued between $100,001 and $250,000. If extraction on the plot proves fruitful, the lease dictates that Citizen Energy will pay Alito’s wife 3/16ths of all the money it makes from oil and gas sales.

In the past, Alito has often recused himself from cases that pose potential conflicts of interest with his vast investment portfolio. Many of these recusals were born from an inheritance of stocks after the death of Alito’s father-in-law, Bobby Gene Bomgardner. Because Citizen Energy III isn’t implicated in any cases before the Supreme Court, Alito’s holding in Oklahoma doesn’t appear to pose any direct conflicts of interest. But it does add context to a political outlook that has alarmed environmentalists since Alito’s confirmation hearing in 2006 — and cast recent decisions that embolden the oil and gas industry in a damning light.

In May, Alito penned a majority decision in Sackett v. EPA which radically scaled back the Clean Water Act, reducing its mandate by tens of millions of acres.

Prior to targeting the Clean Water Act, Alito joined the courts’ other conservative justices in attacking another set of EPA powers under the Clean Air Act in West Virginia v. EPA. The 2022 ruling gutted the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Prior to the lease, Alito ruled on cases with the potential to impact gas and oil prices, both nationally and in Oklahoma. In Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet, Inc., decided in 2015, Alito ruled with the majority to head off an attempt to block state antitrust laws from being applied to natural gas companies under the Natural Gas Act. Oneok, the largest supplier of natural gas in Oklahoma, runs an active natural gas pipeline through the Alito plot.

In 2017, Alito delivered an address at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, that further clarified his position on fossil fuels’ role in climate change. “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide is not harmful to ordinary things, to human beings, or to animals, or to plants.” Alito said. “It’s actually needed for plant growth. All of us are exhaling carbon dioxide right now. So, if it’s a pollutant, we’re all polluting.”

Over the past two years, Citizen Energy has launched a buying spree of wells and land rights, positioning itself as one of the top private producers in Oklahoma. It operates over 200 miles of natural gas-gathering pipelines and over 700 wells, and produces over 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. It is financially backed by the private equity behemoth Warburg Pincus.

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The Intercept

Locations: Oklahoma 

Organizations: Citizen Energy III Supreme Court Claremont Institute Warburg Pincus 

People: Samuel Alito 

Tags: Fossil Fuel Climate Change Corruption Clean Water Act Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency 

Type: Headlines