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Supreme Court Overturns “Chevron” Doctrine and Rejects Continued Court Deference to Federal Agencies

July 8, 2024

In a groundbreaking decision, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, the United States Supreme Court has eliminated the deference previously granted to federal agencies to interpret the laws that they administer. Under a previous decision, Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (1984), the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) had required courts to exercise deference to agencies regarding the interpretation of ambiguity in the statutes that they administer. Under the “Chevron doctrine,” if a court determined that any federal statute was unclear or ambiguous, it was required to defer to an agency’s reasonable construction of that statute—even if the court ultimately disagreed with that agency’s interpretation. In practice, the Chevron doctrine often required courts to uphold agency regulations that far exceeded the scope of the authority or direction provided by Congress.

The Supreme Court’s most recent decision in Loper Bright overruled Chevron, holding that 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.” Unrestrained by Chevron, courts are now free to reject agency actions that stray too far afield from the express statutory authority or intent of federal statutes. The Loper Bright decision is expected to have a major impact on any number of agency regulations, and most notably on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has often clashed with industry, mining and agricultural groups over its attempts to promulgate far-reaching environmental regulations or implement agency policies that are premised on dubious or controversial interpretations of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. We expect the Loper Bright decision to have profound impact on both agency rulemaking and enforcement. Industry groups will be able to mount challenges to agency actions on a level playing field since the EPA and other agencies will no longer have the benefit of playing with a “loaded deck.”

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