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Updated Jun 28, 2024, 1:07pm EDT
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US Supreme Court strikes down historic Chevron ruling, gutting federal agencies’ power

A general view of the US Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2024.
Will Dunham/REUTERS
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The News

The US Supreme Court on Friday struck down a 40-year-old precedent known as the ‘Chevron doctrine’ that empowered agencies to interpret ambiguous laws.

The decision could lead to future challenges to a slew of agency rules on different issues, from emissions to wildlife conservation.

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The 6-3 ruling means that judges will be responsible for giving the final interpretation of legislation, though Chevron-based precedent will remain valid.

The 1984 Chevron deference, named for the court’s 1984 decision in Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council, gave federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency discretion to interpret statutes when Congressional legislation was ambiguous. Supporters of the doctrine said it gave the government the ability to consult non-political — and often scientific — experts on subject matter to properly implement legislation.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Ruling shows court’s rightward tilt and growing hostility toward agencies

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Sources:  
Semafor, The New York Times, NBC News, Politico

Undoing Chevron notched another win for the conservative legal movement, which largely believes that liberal-run federal agencies have used their power too broadly and need to be reined in. Conservatives lauded the decision as “a major step to preserve the separation of powers and shut down unlawful agency overreach.” Several other rulings this term have taken aim at federal agencies’ power, though none so severely as this. The court’s ruling could be “one of the most destabilizing decisions that this court has issued,” one leftwing think tank analyst said. That’s because so many other cases depend on Chevron: It’s one of the most-cited decisions in all of American law.

Ruling could undermine US attempts to be global leader in AI regulation

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Sources:  
Wiley Law, Institute for the Study of Democracy

The Chevron deference has been criticized in the past not for allowing federal agency overreach, but for enabling a deregulatory agenda over emerging technologies. Now, its overruling risks leaving such technologies — particularly artificial intelligence — in legal limbo, a group of legal experts argued for Wiley Law. Worse, regulatory frameworks could vary widely across different states, which is particularly incompatible with the cross-border nature of technologies like AI. Tech companies could wind up favoring some regions of the US over others, and the lack of a united regulatory stance in the US could undermine the country’s efforts to engage on AI with countries like China, a columnist wrote for the Institute for the Study of Democracy.

The ruling could leave industry groups ‘freer to pollute without constraint’

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, E&E News

Despite being handed a defeat by the original 1984 ruling that established the Chevron Doctrine, many environmental groups urged justices not to overturn it, The Washington Post reported. A weaker executive branch could leave industry groups “freer to pollute without constraint,” although President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which gave the Environmental Protection Agency more authority to curb harmful emissions, could act as a safeguard, a director at the National Resources Defense Council who argued the original Chevron case told the outlet. But the ruling could also make yet-to-be-enacted environmental regulations less ambitious by forcing agencies to preemptively consider how courts might interpret ambiguous statutes, a columnist noted in E&E News.

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