By shooting down 'Chevron deference' doctrine, SCOTUS restored democratic rulemaking, experts say

“The ramifications of this decision are going to be felt for decades,” energy analyst David Blackmon said. The decision removes a considerable amount of power from administrative agencies, who will now have to provide evidence before issuing decisions.

Published: June 28, 2024 11:02pm

The Supreme Court Friday issued a ruling that will limit federal agencies’ sweeping regulatory power. Libertarians and conservatives have hailed the decision as increasing individual liberty and reducing the power of bureaucrats over Americans' lives.

In a 6-3 decision, the justices vacated a 1984 doctrine known as "Chevron deference," which allows federal agencies broad latitude in interpreting laws when Congress hasn’t provided specific guidelines. Under the doctrine, if Congress has granted an agency the general authority to make rules with the force of law, courts generally defer to the agency’s implementation of that general authority. 

David Blackmon, energy analyst and author of “Energy Absurdities,” called the high court’s decision a “Earth-shaking ruling.” 

“It's going to be much, much harder for federal agencies to invoke major, incredibly complex regulations that are clearly outside the original intent and scope of the governing statute,” Blackmon told Just the News

BASEDPolitics host Hannah Cox said in a video on X that the doctrine was developed by activist judges in the 1980s who didn’t feel restrained to interpretations of the law based on the Constitution, precedent, or originalism. Instead, she said, they just made up the law as it suited them. The Chevron deference grew out of this era, Cox said, and as a result, federal agencies have been able to decide what their own powers are, instead of Congress or the courts. This resulted in an “explosion” in rules and regulation. 

“Americans are no longer living in a representative government for a number of reasons, but predominantly because your elected lawmakers are not the ones really making most of the rules that govern your lives,” Cox said. 

Long overdue

With the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter, instead of deferring to the agencies, judges will interpret the law as written by Congress. This will make it easier to overturn regulations impacting industries and individuals, experts say. 

The challenge to the doctrine originated with a 2020 final rule issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which required fishing companies to hire someone to act as a monitor aboard their vessels. According to New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), which represented the plaintiffs, the monitors would cost the fishermen more than $700 per day, which sometimes exceeds their profits. 


Three fisheries — Relentless, Inc.; Huntress, Inc.; and Seafreeze Fleet Inc. — sued, and in 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld NOAA’s rule, relying heavily on the Chevron deference. According to the court’s ruling, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs U.S. fisheries, provided NOAA with the general regulatory authority to manage fisheries, and the agency had executed a reasonable interpretation of the federal statute. 

Friday’s Supreme Court decision remanded the lower court’s ruling. 

“This ruling is long overdue. To allow agencies to pick the pocket of the regulated without congressional authorization is against all the principles of representative government and our constitutional structure,” John Vecchione, senior litigation counsel for the NCLA, said in a statement

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a regulatory reform think tank, had filed an amicus brief in support of the fisheries. 

“Chevron encourages agencies — not neutral and impartial judges — to interpret the law, and sometimes those agencies are afflicted with institutional self interest,” the CEI argued in its brief. Dan Greenberg, CEI's general counsel, applauded the high court’s decision, saying that it’s a huge step for self-government and “dethrones federal agencies.” 

“This is a welcome decision by the Court. It amounts to the Justices telling the rest of the government: do your job and stay in your lane,” Greenberg said in a statement

Really rogue

Steve Milloy, a senior legal fellow with the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute and publisher of, said that, combined with the June 2022 decision in West Virginia v. EPA, federal agencies will only be able to do what Congress has authorized them to do. 

In West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not grant the EPA authority to regulate emissions from existing power plants based on their type of fuel. The decision invalidated former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“If Congress writes vague laws, well, they can interpret them however they want. But then they're going to be subject to whatever a judge decides. So it’s huge,” Milloy told Just the News

The ruling may bolster legal challenges to regulations enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency, he said, including rules governing semi trucks, power plants and vehicle emissions

However, Milloy said, the EPA is a “bully agency,” and it has issued rules that it knows exceeds any authority Congress has granted it, but it passes the rules anyways.

“These people are really rogue,” Milloy said. 

Friday’s ruling against Chevron deference will “sandwich” them, he said, between the agency’s habit of exceeding its authority and the decisions by judges who will now interpret the law. 

Congressional responsibility

Supporters of Chevron deference argue that the guideline allowed federal agencies to easily pass rules that protect Americans within a general guidance that Congress allows. 

New York University School of Law Professor Melissa Murray argued on MSNBC in January that Congress is too politically polarized, and lawmakers don't have the time to pass all the regulations that protect people. Likewise, she said, lawmakers don’t have the expertise to regulate effectively. 

“Imagine Marjorie Taylor Green making decisions about particulate matter,” Murray said, referring to the Republican representative from Georgia. Murray, who specializes in constitutional law, family law, criminal law, and reproductive rights and justice is a former clerk for Sonia Sotomayor, then of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Kagan's dissent in the case.

The EPA finalized rules on particulate matter in February, which critics say will raise costs for manufacturers, increase electricity rates and block new manufacturing facilities and infrastructure projects. Twenty-four states are now suing the EPA to block the rules

Supporters of the Supreme Court’s decision say that it will force Congress to assume its role in government as is outlined in the Constitution. 

In a thread on X, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said that Friday’s ruling will force Congress to “re-learn how to write real laws.” 

“For decades, Congress has relied on a lazy technique. Rather than enacting real laws, Congress has delegated much of its lawmaking power to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats,” Lee said. 

Blackmon, the energy analyst, agreed the decision will place the onus of rulemaking back on Congress, and this will lead to sweeping changes in federal rulemaking. 

“The ramifications of this decision are going to be felt for decades,” Blackmon said.

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