Supreme Court to Take up Sweeping Federal Regulation Case

May 1, 2023

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would revisit the fate of a decades-old decision regarding government regulation of businesses.

Next term, the Justices will take on the so-called “Chevron case.” In 1984, the Supreme Court had ruled in a case involving oil giant Chevron, saying that when regulations are not crystal clear, the federal government should be allowed to fill in the details. 

The nearly 40-year-old decision has impacted environmental regulations, workplace standards, consumer protections and immigration law. It has been a frequent target of small-government conservatives over the decades.

Since becoming a 6-3 conservative supermajority with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who replaced deceased liberal Ruth Bader Ginsberg in October 2020, the Supreme Court has been reining in federal regulators. The Justices’ decisions have included July’s ruling to cut back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon output at existing power plants. The decision in West Virginia v EPA is expected to greatly hinder President Biden’s goal of running the U.S. power grid on clean energy by 2035.

Chevron v Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has been one of the most frequently cited Supreme Court cases regarding government reach. At least four conservative Justices—Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh— have questioned the 1984 decision. Overturning it could dramatically limit the discretion of federal officials to regulate in a wide range of American life.

Further, when the Chevron case is revisited, one of the liberal Justices—Ketanji Brown Jackson—will not participate, presumably because she was on a panel of appellate judges that heard arguments in the case when it was at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last week, the Justices finished hearing arguments for the 2022-2023 term and are expected to wrap in June, meaning revisiting Chevron won’t happen until at least this coming October. 

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