Supreme Court strikes down previous ruling giving agencies broad powers

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a vote along ideological lines, has reversed the 40-year-old Chevron Ruling, which expanded the power of federal agencies - Photo by Claire Anderson on UnSplash

The Chevron Rule had been at the center of ideological debate for decades

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a vote along ideological lines, has reversed the 40-year-old Chevron Ruling, which greatly expanded the power of federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In recent years, the Chevron Ruling has divided liberals and conservatives. Liberals have generally applauded it, saying that it reduces corporate abuses. Conservatives have argued that the ruling gives the administrative state powers that Congress has not granted.

The reversal came in a case that challenged a 2020 requirement by the National Marine Fisheries Service that cited a 1976 law to require fishing boats in the Atlantic herring fishery to pay for at-sea monitors to ensure fishing regulations were being followed.

In rendering its decision, the Court gathered in their ideological corners. Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion, was backed by justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Barrett and Kavanaugh.

The dissent

Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson voted to uphold the Chevron Ruling. 

"In one fell swoop, the majority today gives itself exclusive power over every open issue — no matter how expertise-driven or policy-laden — involving the meaning of regulatory law," Kagan wrote in a dissent. "As if it did not have enough on its plate, the majority turns itself into the country's administrative czar."

Kagan’s dissent was joined by Sotomayor and Jackson.

Two lower courts upheld the Chevron Ruling against the fishing industry’s legal challenge but the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.


Carlos Hernandez, senior trial lawyer at Carpenter & Zuckerman, says the Supreme Court decision will have a profound impact on the powers of federal agencies to regulate air, water, consumer goods, food, and the environment.

“Overturning Chevron makes ensuring the safety of our food, drugs, and consumer products all the more difficult at the federal level,” Hernandez told ConsumerAffairs. “Without the deference federal agencies have had for the last 40 years that has allowed them to interpret and enforce laws that protect our food and consumer goods, the health and welfare of U.S. consumers is at risk.”

But the Balancing Act Project, a coalition of 50 multi-sector industry employers, says the decision simply restores some regulatory balance.

“While regulation is a critical part of any free market economy, American industries need to understand the rules so they can invest and grow,” said Ken Nahigian, Co-founder of the Balancing Act Project.

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