Supreme Court Decision May Weaken Environmental Safeguards

( – The Conservative Supreme Court majority has proven time and again that it doesn’t mind reversing its precedents. Most notably, the court rolled back federal abortion protections in 2022. It is now set to decide a case that is just as important, but it involves environmental protections.

In May, the high court agreed to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the nearly 40-year-old precedent set in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. In 1984, the justices ruled that when it comes to ambiguous statutes, courts should yield to a federal agency’s interpretation as long as it’s reasonable. That has allowed federal agencies to act without worrying about interference from the courts. Republicans have long disagreed with the ruling, arguing it gives the government too much power.

A group of commercial fishing companies is asking the high court to take a second look at the ruling. They are challenging a rule set by the National Marine Fisheries Service that forces the fishing industry to pay observers who make sure that fisheries are in compliance with management plans.

The case challenging the ruling argues the National Marine Fisheries Services doesn’t have the authority to require Americans to pay the salaries of federal compliance monitors. They are hoping to overturn the Chevron ruling. In 2020, Justice Clarence Thomas condemned the longstanding ruling, saying it was “in serious tension with the Constitution.” Justice Neil Gorsuch has also signaled in the past that he would likely support a decision that overturns the precedent.

If the high court does move forward with this, it would have major implications for other lawsuits where the justices have cited the Chevron ruling. It could weaken the agencies tasked with monitoring polluters.

Although Liberals are bracing themselves for the precedent to be overturned, Boston University law professor Jack M. Beermann told Newsweek that Democrats objected to the SCOTUS decision at the time, saying it was “inconsistent with the judicial role” because it helped further then-President Ronald Reagan’s goals to deregulate.

Americans likely won’t know what the court plans to do until next spring when it issues its decisions.

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