A case pending before the Supreme Court could potentially reverse the 1984 Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc, ruling that resulted in the Chevron doctrine.
In essence, the Chevron doctrine says “courts should defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute as long as that interpretation is reasonable.”
A group of New Jersey fishermen, however, contend the Commerce Department imposing obtuse monitoring fees on them without Congressional approval isn’t reasonable. There’s a funding scheme in place, the fishermen’s lawyers argue, that forces them to fork over about 20% of their pay to third-party National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries observers. Congress, however, has never mandated commercial fishermen to report to observers.
The fishing companies petitioned SCOTUS in November and asked them to weigh in on overturning the Chevron doctrine. Ultimately, the justices have agreed to take up a case involving Question 2 of the doctrine.
Thirty-eight groups—including Independent Women’s Law Center—have filed amicus briefs in support of the fishermen. They argue SCOTUS should overturn or severely defang abuse by governmental agencies like the Commerce Department. The case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, could be argued before SCOTUS as early as fall 2023.
The potential challenge to the Chevron doctrine parallels the Major Questions Doctrine invoked in the seminal West Virginia vs. EPA case. IWF Center for Energy and Conservation Director Mandy Gunasekara recently discussed how the provision can generally curb regulatory abuses:
The biggest legal elephant in the room is the West Virginia v. EPA decision that invoked the ‘major questions’ doctrine. Specifically, the Supreme Court made clear that agencies must point to ‘clear Congressional authorization’ if they take actions of ‘vast economic or political significance.’ One can argue in this instance that the EPA does not have the ability to restructure the entire transportation industry in the same way the agency did not have the ability to redesign entire energy markets in the West Virginia case.
The Biden administration is exceeding its powers as they attempt to govern by regulatory fiat.