Written by Ashton Snyder on
 June 13, 2024

Implications of Supreme Court Review on Chevron Deference

The Supreme Court may fundamentally alter the regulatory power of federal agencies.

According to the Washington Examiner, the justices are deliberating on whether to overturn or reduce the scope of the Chevron deference.

The court's decision could have broad impacts on fisheries, energy, and environmental policies. This long-standing judicial precedent, originating from the 1984 case Chevron U.S.A. v. National Resources Defense Council, enables federal agencies to interpret ambiguous statutes provided their interpretations are reasonable.

Challenges to Federal Regulation

With the court's current 6-3 majority of Republican appointees, analysts suggest a strong possibility of curbing or potentially discarding Chevron.

Two significant cases contributing to this review are Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce.

These cases contest the National Marine Fisheries Service's authority to mandate that commercial fishing vessels accommodate and finance federal observers.

Fisherman Dustin Delano illuminated the stakes, stating, "It’s probably no secret that our fishermen have constantly had to enter lots of regulation."

He further mentioned that federal regulations have intensified recently, impacting their operations. "Actually, even more money than most crewmen typically make," Delano remarked, highlighting the financial burden.

Ripple Effects on Climate Policies

Potentially significant consequences beyond fisheries have been noted. The current administration's climate and energy regulations might be particularly vulnerable. Provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act, especially those related to tax incentives and clean energy funding, face uncertainties.

Analysts like Tina Van Bockern express concerns about the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) policies. "If Chevron deference is gone, how is a court going to look at the challenges to BLM’s claim that it can now lease public lands for what many view as non-use?" Van Bockern questioned. This shift could make it challenging for BLM to justify its interpretations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) and Interior Department's regulations are seen as at risk. Devon Ombres examined how a narrower agency interpretation might affect environmental rules.

"If you look at air pollution when the Clean Air Act was written, the science wasn’t what it is now," Ombres pointed out, suggesting that courts might exclude newer pollutants like methane from regulatory oversight.

Judicial Perspectives on Chevron Deference

Further ramifications are envisioned for the Department of Energy (DOE) 's decisions on export terminals for liquefied natural gas and EPA regulations stemming from the Clean Air Act. This potential rollback of deference could reshape how agencies proceed with policy enforcement and development.

Justice Neil Gorsuch has voiced criticism of Chevron, stating, "Rather than say what the law is, we tell those who come before us to go ask a bureaucrat."

His concern centers on the perceived bias this deference gives federal agencies in legal interpretations. "Chevron deference places a finger on the scales of justice in favor of the most powerful of litigants, the federal government, and against everyone else," Gorsuch added, indicating a shift in balance may be overdue.

Adam White, another observer, suggested some judicial leniency might still exist for new, ambiguous laws. "There may be room for some judicial deference to agencies as they work out the precise meaning of a vague law, at least when the law is new, but eventually, the courts must settle the question," White noted, signaling a potential middle ground.

As the Supreme Court deliberates, the implications are vast and varied. The outcome could redefine the operational landscape for multiple sectors, from fisheries to climate policy. The very foundation of how federal agencies sustain and enforce regulations is at a critical juncture.

Conclusion

Summarizing the critical points, the Supreme Court's decision on Chevron deference could reduce federal regulatory power significantly. This review stems from a landmark 1984 ruling, and a Republican-majority court supports its potential rollback. Key challenges involve pending cases on fisheries, while widespread impacts loom over Biden's climate policies, the Inflation Reduction Act, and other environmental regulations.

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