Supreme Court Decision Threatens Clean Air and Clean Water for All

Extreme Supermajority of Justices Overturn Chevron Doctrine; Voting is Vital

June 28, 2024
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

“Today’s extreme ruling from the 6-to-3 Supreme Court supermajority damages the foundational legal principle that has long ensured clean air, clean water, a safe climate, food free from contaminants and healthy fisheries. It undermines vital protections for the American people at the behest of powerful polluters.

“Unfortunately, this extreme Supreme Court is not done, and the 6-to-3 supermajority will likely continue to unravel the bedrock statutory protections that help ensure clean air, clean water and a safe climate for all.

“The alarm bells are ringing to vote. Your vote will determine the strength of our public health and environmental protections and will decide whether we have leaders who will address climate change, officials who will ensure we have clean air and water, and a judiciary that protects the interests of the American people over powerful polluters.

“Environmental Defense Fund will be working diligently in the court of law and the court of public opinion to protect clean air, clean water and climate safety for all people – as Congress intended and as how, until now, has protected the American people.”

            - Vickie Patton, General Counsel for Environmental Defense Fund

Background

Today’s Supreme Court decisions were in in Relentless v. Dept. of Commerce (No. 22-1219) and Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo (No. 22-451). Environmental Defense Fund is the only environmental group to file amicus briefs in both cases – here and here

The cases challenged the Chevron doctrine – a pillar of the U.S. legal system for 40 years which holds that courts should defer to expert Executive Branch agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when they reasonably interpret ambiguous instructions from Congress. Congress adopts laws to protect the American people from serious harms, and it instructs politically accountable expert agencies to carry out those protective laws. Without the Chevron doctrine, judges would be asked to second-guess common sense decisions about highly technical issues – effectively legislating from the bench.

In her dissent today, Justice Kagan writes:

“A rule of judicial humility gives way to a rule of judicial hubris …

“In one fell swoop, the majority today gives itself exclusive power over every open issue — no matter how expertise-driven or policy-laden — involving the meaning of regulatory law … 

“A longstanding precedent at the crux of administrative governance thus falls victim to a bald assertion of judicial authority. The majority disdains restraint, and grasps for power.”
 

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