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Supreme Court Overturns Chevron Doctrine, Limiting Federal Regulatory Power

This analysis provided by Jim Wiesemeyer, ProFarmer

Impact on EPA and enviro regulations. The Supreme Court on Friday, in a 6-3 ruling along ideological lines, overturned Chevron and handed authority back to Congress and the courts. “Courts must exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Chevron doctrine impacts the power of federal agencies like the EPA to issue regulations. The Chevron doctrine previously allowed agencies to interpret vague laws. This change provides opponents a clearer legal path to challenge regulations, potentially forcing agencies to be more cautious in drafting rules.

Environmental regulators, such as the EPA, will face tougher judicial challenges. The decision is expected to slow down the regulatory process, requiring more time to craft, weigh comments, and finalize rules. Many environmental rules stem from old laws with few modern amendments, adding to the uncertainty.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rule in jeopardy. The FERC’s rule aimed at improving power grid planning is now at risk. Republican Commissioner Mark Christie suggests that the Supreme Court decision makes it more likely for the rule to be struck down, prompting a potential need for amendments.

Vulnerability of auto and power plant emission limits. Auto pollution standards and recent rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants may be vulnerable following the Supreme Court ruling.

SEC climate disclosure rules: The SEC might face limitations in extending its regulatory reach. Companies challenging the SEC’s climate disclosure rules argue that Congress did not provide clear authority for such regulations.

Shift of responsibility to congress and courts. Overturning the Chevron doctrine shifts more responsibility to Congress to directly address policy issues with new laws. It also gives judges broader authority to rein in regulators when they exceed their authority.

Impact for agriculture regulations and the farm bill. USDA and EPA will no longer have the broad authority to interpret ambiguous statutes. This change is expected to limit their ability to create and enforce regulations without explicit congressional authorization. For instance, regulations related to farm subsidies, crop insurance, and environmental practices, including the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, will now face closer judicial scrutiny.

Farm subsidies and crop insurance: Agencies will need clear statutory authority to implement or modify programs related to farm subsidies and crop insurance… could lead to fewer regulatory changes… unless explicitly directed by Congress.

Environmental practices: Regulations under the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws will be more challenging to enforce if they rely on ambiguous statutory language. This could affect rules aimed at protecting wetlands and managing agricultural runoff.

Animal welfare standards: The ruling could impact regulations like those via the Packers & Stockyards Act, which aim to ensure fair competition and treatment in livestock markets.

Support from agricultural groups. They argue that it restores a balance of power by ensuring that unelected bureaucrats cannot impose regulations beyond what Congress has explicitly authorized.

Impact on the farm bill. The ruling puts pressure on Congress to draft more precise and detailed legislation. This is particularly relevant for the new farm bill, as lawmakers will need to ensure that the statutory language is clear to avoid judicial challenges and ensure effective implementation by federal agencies.

The decision is expected to increase accountability within the legislative and executive branches. Congress will need to be more explicit in its directives, and federal agencies will be limited to implementing laws as written, without broad interpretative leeway.

Potential for legal challenges. With the Chevron deference overturned, there may be an increase in legal challenges to existing and new regulations. Courts will now play a more significant role in interpreting agricultural laws, which could lead to a more stable regulatory environment but also more litigation as stakeholders seek judicial clarification on ambiguous statutes.

Opportunity to review prior cases? The conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) said House committees “have an opportunity to review any regulatory action that was justified by Chevron deference toward agency interpretation.” The RSC views the overturning of Chevron as a way to “reclaim congressional authority” and roll back what they see as executive overreach. The committee’s memo encouraged its members to “scour Biden-era regulatory actions and highlight any that should be considered for judicial review post-Chevron.” This indicates a specific focus on reviewing and potentially challenging regulations implemented during the Biden administration.

But the Supreme court ruling said decisions made previously that relied on Chevron would not be subject to review.