Press Release | June 28, 2024

Supreme Court Decision Jeopardizes Environmental Protections 

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision on the joint cases of Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce, overturning deference to a federal agency’s interpretation when there is legal ambiguity. This reversal of what is known as the Chevron doctrine, in place for nearly 40 years, carries significant repercussions for all federal regulations, including longstanding environmental protections.  

In response to the ruling, SELC Litigation Director Kym Meyer issued the following statement: 

“The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority just handed a big win to industry groups and ideological opponents of governmental protections that keep us all safe. 

These cases arose from disputes about fishing regulations, but there is a much bigger issue at stake: how federal courts decide whether to uphold or strike down agency regulations, including those that protect our clean air and clean water; the safety of our food, cars, and airplanes; our medical care; our bank deposits, and much more. 

Today’s ruling sidelines the role of agency expertise, and instead shifts power to judges who do not have the expertise of agency staff who live and breathe the science, financial principles, and safety concerns that federal agencies specialize in. 

For decades, courts have followed a unanimous Supreme Court decision called Chevron in upholding reasonable agency interpretations of statutes where Congress left room for different ways of applying the law. This approach gave deference to agency expertise where complex regulatory matters, like environmental protections, were at stake. After all, Congress can’t foresee every technical nuance when it writes a law.  

Today’s Supreme Court has just abandoned that approach. Instead, the Supreme Court today says individual judges around the country should decide the best reading of a statute. That is a recipe for chaos, as hundreds of federal judges — who lack the expertise of agency personnel — are certain to reach inconsistent results on the meaning of federal laws as applied in to complex, technical issues. Worse, it opens the door to the possibility that judicial policy preferences may drive decisions.  

Fortunately, SELC is well positioned to safeguard environmental protections in the South. We have been anticipating this decision for years, and we have been working with agencies to make sure their regulations are as well-supported and durable as possible. As always, we’ll keep fighting in courts, legislative bodies, and local town halls across the South against any efforts to throw out the critical environmental protections we all depend on.”

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Press Contacts

Erin Malec

Director of Communications

Phone: 434-977-4090
Email: [email protected]