Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard two challenges to the Chevron Doctrine: Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc., v. Raimondo and Relentless, Inc. v. Dept. of Commerce. One report suggests SCOTUS could potentially override the 1984 Chevron vs. NRDC decision that birthed this doctrine by June 2024. 

The Chevron doctrine says “courts should defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute as long as that interpretation is reasonable.” The “two-step” process of reviewing agency statutes seeks to determine 1) if a statute in question is ambiguous and 2) if the ambiguous statute is reasonable.  

In the 40 years since Chevron was decided, it’s invited government agencies to engage rulemaking that exceeds their authority since these powers are constitutionally prescribed to Congress. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote Chevron deference “has no constitutional basis,” undermines the Administrative Procedure Act, and potentially violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause.  
The Loper plaintiffs, a group of New Jersey fishermen, believe the Commerce Department is imposing unreasonable monitoring fees on them under the Magnuson Stevens Act of 1976 using this doctrine. As I noted here at IWF, the fishermen currently fork over 20% of their earnings to federal observers under the Chevron doctrine:

“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.” 

They also argue the law National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries – or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – can’t require federal observers aboard their vessels. The plaintiffs operate in the Atlantic herring fishery, which is not required by the MSA to pay observers. The law only requires observers in three narrow instances

Last year, the Independent Women’s Law Center (IWLC) joined 38 groups in filing amicus briefs in support of the fishermen. IWLC argued federal agencies “promulgate jaw-dropping regulations that make significant demands of the American people.”

IWF’s Center for Energy and Conservation welcomes this challenge of the Chevron Doctrine and supports the efforts of these fishermen, who are underappreciated conservationists, to rein in regulatory abuses.