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Oct. 19, 2020 by James Goodwin

Will Confirming Judge Barrett be the Death of Chevron Deference?

This post was originally published on the Union of Concerned Scientists' blog. Reprinted with permission.

For many of us, the prospect of a Supreme Court with Judge Amy Coney Barrett giving conservatives a solid 6-3 supermajority is nightmare fuel. The consequences extend beyond hot-button social issues, such as women's reproductive rights or individual access to affordable health care. If confirmed, Barrett would likely spur the aggressive pro-business agenda that the Court has pursued under the auspices of Chief Justice John Roberts.

A key item on that agenda is overturning something called Chevron deference, which some business groups have made a top priority in their broader campaign to bring about, as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon put it, the "deconstruction of the administrative state." In other words, changing this key doctrine would undermine the ability of Executive branch agencies to regulate on a huge range of public health, safety and environmental protection issues.

Chevron deference springs from a 1984 Supreme Court case called Chevron v. NRDC, which involved a legal challenge against a Clean Air Act rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Specifically, the lawsuit claimed that the rule was based on an incorrect …

Oct. 1, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This is the second part of a two-post set. Read the first post here.

In yesterday's post, I discussed the essentially undemocratic ways that conservatives have come to the brink of a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court and examined one significant implication for regulatory policy: the likely effect on the Court's view on Chevron deference. In this second post, I explore several other ways the Court could undermine the essential democratic character of the regulatory system.

Nondelegation. Progressives dodged a big bullet in 2019 when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Gundy v. United States. In the case, conservatives sought to resuscitate a long-dormant doctrine known as nondelegation, which generally prohibits Congress from transferring its legislative authority to another branch, but again fell one vote short of doing so. Similar to Chevron deference, conservatives believe that the federal courts’ failure to enforce a more …

Sept. 30, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This is the first part of a two-post set. The second post is available here.

Last week, Matthew Yglesias published an important piece at Vox explaining the many ways conservatives have succeeded in exploiting fundamentally undemocratic features of our constitutional structure of government to advance their policy agenda. This strategy will have reached its grotesque culmination if they manage to seat Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the U.S. Supreme Court.

He’s rightfully angry about the situation – as should we all be – but the story he tells, thorough and infuriating as it is, misses an important point: It could actually get much worse. That’s because it's likely that Barrett will be a reliable vote in support of advancing the conservatives’ dream of stripping the U.S. regulatory system of its essential democratic features, transforming it into yet another vacuum cleaner with which the nation’s …

Sept. 25, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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Grappling with a contentious dispute over cross-state air pollution, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority in Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation, first consulted the King James Bible. “‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth,’ she wrote, “In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind.”

It was 2014, and at stake was a complicated, science-driven plan crafted by the EPA to limit air pollution that wafts from one state to endanger communities in another. The plan, which budgeted air emissions in certain states, promised to save thousands of lives and bring cleaner air to poor and minority neighborhoods. But in so doing, it would force several aging coal plants to close. Industry cried foul, saying …

Sept. 22, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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With Sen. Mitt Romney’s announcement this morning that he would support consideration of a nominee before the election, it now seems virtually certain that President Trump will be able to appoint a sixth conservative justice. How will that affect future climate policy? Here is a preliminary threat assessment.

The answer varies, depending on what policies we’re talking about. Overall, the implications of a 6-3 Court are bad. But they’re probably not as dire for environmental law as for other issues like racial equality or reproductive rights.

As a quick preliminary take on this, I’ll sort heightened legal risks of climate actions into high, medium, low, and wildcard. The wildcard risks actually worry me the most.

High Risk

Innovative regulations like Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Regulations by EPA that use existing statutory …

June 19, 2020 by William Buzbee
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On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Trump administration's rescission of the Obama administration's immigration relief program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In explaining and then defending its DACA rollback, the Trump administration had raised an array of claims that, if accepted, would have undercut numerous regulatory rule of law fundamentals. Instead, the Court strengthened these longstanding requirements. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) v. Regents will become central to battles over the many Trump administration rollbacks and reversals of environmental and other regulations.

In the Trump DACA rescission, the administration relied heavily on an argument it has often deployed to justify regulatory rollbacks. It claimed that the Obama administration DACA policy was so legally flawed that the Trump team had no choice but to reverse the policy. And in this DACA rescission, like many of its environmental regulatory rollbacks, the …

June 2, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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In April, the U.S. Supreme Court finally weighed in with an answer to a longstanding question about what kinds of pollution discharges rise to the level of a "point source" and require a permit under the Clean Water Act. The Court dipped its toes into some muddied waters, as this question has been the subject of a range of decisions in the lower courts for decades, with little consensus. Panelists on the Center for Progressive Reform's May 28 clean water webinar examined the Supreme Court's opinion and its possible implications for water quality protections.

Maui sewage discharge map

The Clean Water Act prevents the addition of any pollutant to any navigable water of the United States from any so-called "point source" – a fixed point, as in, for example, the end of a pipe discharging into a river – without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Generally speaking, the EPA …

May 11, 2020 by John Echeverria
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Anyone following the news about the coronavirus knows about the vocal opposition by libertarians and other right-wing extremists to government measures designed to control the pandemic. On television, the coverage has focused on angry, gun-toting protesters. But there's another avenue of opposition to the virus-related safeguards, one that's less photogenic but no less divorced from reality. In recent weeks, a number of land and business owners have filed lawsuits claiming stay-at-home orders and business closings represent “takings” of private property under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These takings claims should be – and likely will be – rejected based on firm U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

In the absence of clear direction from the Trump administration, states have been left largely to themselves to devise emergency rules designed to “flatten the curve’” of new coronavirus cases and reduce the toll of sickness and death. Most states …

May 7, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

If we get a vaccine against a national epidemic, could Congress pass a law requiring everyone to get vaccinated? That very question was asked during the Supreme Court argument in the 2012 constitutional challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate. The lawyer challenging Obamacare said, “No, Congress couldn’t do that.”

What’s shocking is that this may have been the correct answer. Conservatives on the Supreme Court have curtailed Congress’s ability to legislate about anything other than economic transactions, and an epidemic is not an economic transaction.

The 2012 oral argument in the Supreme Court

JUSTICE BREYER: I’m just picking on something. I’d like to just — if it turned out there was some terrible epidemic sweeping the United States, and we couldn’t say that more than 40 or 50 percent . . . — you’d say the Federal …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 19, 2020

Will Confirming Judge Barrett be the Death of Chevron Deference?

Oct. 1, 2020

How the Shifting Winds on the Supreme Court Could Undermine Our Regulatory System -- and Our Democracy

Sept. 30, 2020

The Regulatory System Is an Important Part of Our Democracy. The 'Trump' Supreme Court Could Change That.

Sept. 25, 2020

CPR Reflects on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Legacy

Sept. 22, 2020

Fighting Global Warming in a Chilly Judicial Climate

June 19, 2020

The Supreme Court's DACA Decision, Environmental Rollbacks, and the Regulatory Rule of Law

June 2, 2020

Clean Water Webinar Spotlight: Lessons Learned from the Supreme Court's Maui Decision