BY Benjamin ClarkJune 13, 2024
1 month ago
BY 
 | June 13, 2024
1 month ago

The Implications Of Overturning Chevron Deference For Energy And Climate Regulations

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deliberating a pivotal case that could destabilize decades of established administrative law by challenging the Chevron deference.

According to the Washington Examiner, a potential shift or end of the Chevron deference could fundamentally alter the enforcement of various federal statutes, especially those concerning climate change and clean energy.

Chevron deference is a judicial doctrine adopted in a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. It asserts that courts should defer to administrative agencies' interpretations of ambiguous laws as long as their interpretations are reasonable.

This principle has particularly facilitated agencies crafting regulations that address intricate or evolving issues without constant legislative updates.

Challenging Cases Brought Before the Supreme Court

In January, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in significant cases like Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce, which directly challenged the application of the Chevron deference.

These cases focus on whether mandatory federal onboard observers in fishing vessels, required for monitoring compliance with conservation standards, should continue under the agency's interpretation of the law.

Commercial fisherman and COO of the New England Fisherman Stewardship Association, Dustin Delano, emphasized the increased regulatory pressures faced by the fishing industry, which have escalated operational costs significantly.

Delano noted that the overwhelming regulatory demands have even led some fishermen to cease operations.

"It’s probably no secret that our fishermen have constantly had to enter lots of regulation — [including actions] we’ve put forth on our own to protect our fisheries," Delano stated, illustrating the compounded impact of federal requirements over the years.

Potential Impact on Biden Administration’s Climate Agenda

If the Supreme Court decides to overturn or weaken Chevron, this could jeopardize various policies under the Biden administration, notably parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, aimed at fostering clean energy solutions.

This disruption could also extend to regulations administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Legal experts argue that without Chevron’s flexibility, agencies might struggle to adapt laws to contemporary scientific and environmental challenges.

Devon Ombres, a noted environmental lawyer, speculated, "We could see a narrowing of the way that agencies have been interpreting the language based on the development of science and knowledge throughout the last 40, 50 years."

Ombres highlighted a specific concern:

If you look at air pollution when the Clean Air Act was written, the science wasn’t what it is now … and if we’re looking at a much narrower definition of air pollution, courts could very easily say, ‘Well, it doesn’t mean methane emissions, because methane emissions were not a known air pollution at the time.'

Justices’ Perspectives and Judicial Skepticism

Several justices, including Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch, have shown skepticism toward the Chevron doctrine. In a 2022 dissent, Justice Gorsuch critically assessed Chevron's influence, suggesting it unfairly tips scales in favor of federal power: “Rather than say what the law is, we tell those who come before us to go ask a bureaucrat.”

Tina Van Bockern, another legal scholar, questioned, "If Chevron's 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?” This encapsulates the broader uncertainties about land use and regulatory interpretations that could emerge post-Chevron.

Adam White, a governance analyst, commented on the long-term view: “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,” indicating a possible transitional approach in judicial assessments.

Conclusion: Navigating Potential Changes in Federal Regulatory Practice

The outcome of this Supreme Court decision could reshape how regulations are implemented and challenged across the United States. With the potential for narrower interpretations of laws, agencies may face new challenges in enforcing environmental and energy policies that align with the latest science and technology. The decision remains highly anticipated by various sectors, as it will influence environmental and energy policies and the broader scope of federal regulatory authority.

Written by: Benjamin Clark

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