SCOTUS Overturns Chevron Doctrine

June 29, 2024

The Supreme Court deals a blow to administrative state power and reaffirms its own power to settle matters of law. In a landmark decision (Loper Bright Enterprises et al. v. Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce, et al., (June 28, 2024), 6-3), the Supreme Court has overruled the Chevron Doctrine (Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., (1984)), significantly altering the landscape of administrative law.

The Supreme Court’s decision stated, “The Administrative Procedure Act requires courts to exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority, and courts may not defer to an agency interpretation of the law simply because a statute is ambiguous; Chevron is overruled.”

History of Chevron deference: Chevron was used to protect big corporations from liability for the harm they caused. The Chevron case itself started because the EPA changed the law’s definition of “source of air pollution” to favor Chevron and other heavily-polluting companies. So the NRDC filed a federal appeal, claiming that the EPA was illegally re-writing the law. The DC Circuit Court ruled in the NRDC’s favor. Then SCOTUS ruled that the EPA were the “experts”, and therefore the courts (and the nation) had to simply defer to however they interpreted the law. But wait, why would the EPA favor the very companies they’re supposed to “protect” us from? Because if a regulatory agency has total control of an industry, the biggest players in that industry have a vested interest in taking over those agencies. They fill them with their cronies, first to protect themselves from being regulated out of existence. But once they’re in the pilot’s seat, they can do whatever they want. They can regulate their smaller competitors out of existence. They can mandate the use of their products. They can look the other way when they violate their own regulations, or just redefine the regulation at will (like they did with Chevron). They can do whatever they want. And up until last Friday, the courts were powerless to stop them. So when you hear someone screeching that the end of Chevron Deference means a return to the dark days of pre-1984 America, when corporations could put radioactive shrapnel in our milk, remind them that the exact opposite is true.

 

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