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Friday, June 28, 2024

Supreme Court Overturns Federal Agency Authority to Interpret Rules
Regulatory chaos and lax regulatory oversight will result

SANTA FE – Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, overturned 40 years of precedent when it ruled that the “Chevron doctrine” no longer provided federal administrative agencies authority to interpret complex and sometimes ambiguous statutes passed by Congress. Instead, that authority now rests with the courts.
In response, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) released the following statements:

“The current Supreme Court (SCOTUS) majority of anti-climate and anti-democracy justices has continued its relentless effort to undermine federal regulatory authority. Today’s decision has knocked the foundations from under federal administrative law as understood since the 1984 Chevron case that gave the doctrine its name. Today’s ruling will not only make it easier for polluting industries to avoid regulation, but also will affect tax law, securities law, labor law, food safety, pharmaceuticals and every conceivable area of federal regulation. The one bright spot in today’s ruling is that the Biden Administration granted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explicit authority to regulate climate pollution, which will make it harder for a court to deny federal regulations of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) pollution. But as another SCOTUS ruling shows, the EPA’s authority is still under attack, as the ability to regulate pollution crossing state boundaries under the so-called “Good Neighbors” rule was blocked by the court.” – Greg Peters, CVNM Vice President of Programs

“Today’s decision will directly harm communities and throw the entire federal regulatory framework into chaos. Agencies will no longer know where the limits of their regulatory authority lie and will hesitate to take enforcement actions. Regulated polluters, on the other hand, will aggressively litigate every federal agency action they dislike. With few exceptions, judges have no expertise outside the law they practice and they will not be in a position to weigh competing claims of scientific interpretation. We can see the lack of expertise in the recent Sackett decision, in which the 6-3 majority ignored basic hydrologic principles as they apply to wetlands and even extended that ignorance to ephemeral and intermittent streams, resulting in up to 94% of New Mexico’s surface waters being at risk of losing Clean Water Act protections as litigation moves forward.” – Douglas Meiklejohn, CVNM Water Quality and Land Restoration Advocate

The Chevron doctrine gets its name from a landmark 1984 decision in Chevron v Natural  Resources Defense Council. The decision in that case upheld the Reagan-era Environmental  Protection Agency’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act in easing emissions regulations.  Under the doctrine, if Congress had not directly addressed the question under dispute, a  court was required to uphold the agency’s interpretation of the statute as long as it was  reasonable. Leaders generally supported the decision, although it was not considered a  major decision at the time. Since then, it has become a foundation of federal administrative  law, figuring in some 70 SCOTUS decisions and cited at least 18,000 times by federal courts.  As more statutes came into force across multiple agencies and issues – tax law, food safety,  worker protections, water quality, securities trading, medicines – anti-climate and anti democracy leaders began laying the groundwork for overthrowing what they came to call  the “administrative state” with the Chevron doctrine as a keystone needing removal.