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Supreme Court Just Gutted The Administrative State, And Biden’s Climate Agenda May Be Hardest Hit

The Supreme Court issued a major ruling Friday that curbs the power of the administrative state, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Biden climate agenda being among the decision’s biggest losers.

The highest court in the land ruled by a 6-3 vote to overturn a legal theory that gives unelected bureaucrats greater powers in its decision in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn that legal theory, known as Chevron deference, will have massive implications for some of the Biden EPA’s signature regulations and for the agency moving forward, according to environmental law experts and former EPA personnel who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The new legal environment could cause problems for signature Biden EPA rules, such as power plant emissions reduction regulations and tailpipe standards that will aggressively shift the American auto market toward electric vehicles over the next decade.

Formerly one of the most important theories in administrative law, Chevron deference held that courts should generally defer to federal agencies’ interpretation of statutory ambiguities, according to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “Chevron is overruled” and that “courts must exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority, as the [Administrative Procedure Act (APA)] requires.”

“The era of ‘trust the experts’ is over,” Mandy Gunasekara, who served as EPA chief of staff during the Trump administration, told the DCNF. “There’s no doubt that crafty administrative lawyers will try to find an end run around this ruling. But overturning Chevron deference, alongside the ‘major questions’ doctrine decision in West Virginia v. EPA, has defanged the deep state. This is a huge win for checks and balances and putting the faceless bureaucrats in their place.”

The Supreme Court decided West Virginia v. EPA in June 2022, killing the Obama EPA’s 2015 proposed power plant regulations, a sweeping set of rules known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The ruling in that case found that EPA had overstepped its authority in issuing the “Clean Power Plan,” and that the policy raised “major questions” which Congress did not expressly authorize the agency to address, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Other environmental law experts and EPA veterans also told the DCNF that the new legal landscape will deal a huge blow to the agency’s power going forward.

“The ruling is as comprehensive as anyone could have expected,” Andrew Wheeler, former EPA administrator for the Trump administration, told the DCNF. “Its reach is going to be broad, and it’s going to hamper certain agencies more than others, EPA in particular, on a program by program basis, not a statute by statute basis.”

Some stringent regulations that the EPA has recently finalized could be on the chopping block in the new legal environment,  including the agency’s major power plant emissions rules and tailpipe standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles that critics have described as an electric vehicle mandate, according to Wheeler.

“This is huge. And it’s more than just Chevron, if you take the June 2022 decision in West Virginia v. EPA, and then you bookend that with this decision to overturn Chevron, then a lot of EPA regulations, illegal EPA regulations, can go away. Excessive regulation can go away,” Steve Milloy, a senior legal fellow for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute and a former member of the Trump EPA transition team, told the DCNF. “And then, if you add the Trump administration running EPA and Department of Justice on top of that, companies will be able to petition EPA and petition the Department of Justice, and sue and settle.”

However, Milloy emphasized that a potential Trump administration would need to carefully and strategically navigate the new legal landscape to ensure that major efforts to deregulate the economy achieve enduring success.

While environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council strongly condemned the court’s decision to overrule Chevron deference, free market and industry groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the American Petroleum Institute commended the court for ending Chevron deference and taking a major step to rein in the administrative state.

EPA and the White House did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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