How the Supreme Court’s Chevron decision benefits the fossil fuel industry

How the Supreme Court’s Chevron decision benefits the fossil fuel industry

L. Delta Merner writes:

Last Friday, the Supreme Court overruled the 40-year-old Chevron doctrine, fundamentally changing the landscape of federal regulatory power. This decision, reached with a 6-3 majority led by Chief Justice John Roberts, marks a significant shift in administrative law and has profound implications for environmental regulations and climate accountability.

Ironically, the downfall of the Chevron doctrine will give Chevron and other major oil and gas corporations more latitude to slow down and block regulations, allowing them to pollute with near impunity. At the end of the day, this decision means that courts will play a more active role in interpreting regulatory statutes, undermining scientific expertise, slowing regulatory processes, and creating obstacles at a time when urgent action is needed to address the climate crisis.

Understanding the Chevron Doctrine

The Chevron doctrine, established in the 1984 Supreme Court case Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., provided that courts should defer to federal agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes. This deference allowed agencies (e.g., the EPA or FDA), staffed with experts, to interpret and implement laws within their purview effectively.

Under Chevron, when a statute was ambiguous, courts would typically side with the agency’s interpretation, recognizing the specialized expertise of agencies in their respective fields. This doctrine has played a crucial role in enabling agencies to enforce regulations on complex issues such as environmental protection, public health, and consumer safety. The ambiguity in statutes is often intentional, acknowledging that Congress isn’t equipped to design prescriptive policies across the whole suite of issues before them—let alone in a way that can evolve as science and technology evolve over time. This intentional ambiguity enables expertise to shape rulemaking as needed. During the 40 years Chevron was law, federal courts cited the doctrine more than 18,000 times. [Continue reading…]

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