Neil Gorsuch's Mother Had A Controversial Career

by Celia Darrough
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The man who Donald Trump has nominated for the ninth Supreme Court justice position has a famous mother. Neil Gorsuch's mom, Anne Gorsuch Burford, once headed up the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan, and it was a controversial couple of years for both her and the agency.

Burford was appointed to be the EPA administrator in 1981. In the two years she was there, she proved that, well, she might not have wanted to be. The Washington Post reported in her 2004 obituary that she believed the EPA, as well as the rest of the federal government, was too big and too wasteful. Burford slashed the agency's budget by 22 percent, got rid of protective regulations, attempted to lessen the Clean Air Act, and tried to make a part of the Atlantic ocean an area where ships could incinerate toxic waste.

The job she did at the EPA was so controversial that many people decried her involvement in it long after she was gone. In fact, more than 20 years after her tenure at the agency had ended, the former director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council said, "Never has America seen two more intensely controversial and blatantly anti-environmental political appointees than [Secretary of the Interior James Watt] and Gorsuch."

Burford resigned from the EPA in 1983 after a battle with Congress over a toxic waste clean-up controversy. According to The New York Times, she was trying to implement Reagan's vision of spending less money on environmental clean-ups and giving more authority to states when it came to environmental policies. The House of Representatives demanded that she hand over documents related to toxic waste clean-up; she refused. Ultimately, she resigned when the White House let up on its attempt to withhold them.

Born in Wyoming, Burford was a whipsmart woman who graduated with her bachelor's degree in two years and was done with law school by age 20. Along with Neil, she was also mother to his siblings, Stephanie and J.J. She died from cancer in 2004.

Like his mother, Neil Gorsuch is a conservative who was nominated most likely for his resemblance in philosophy to late Justice Antonin Scalia. Also like her, his career is already controversial. Whether Democrats will filibuster his nomination or not is unclear, but they're certainly not going to welcome him with open arms.