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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
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Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Who should determine environmental laws?

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GRAPHIC: ALLY ENGLEBERT ’25/THE HAWK

Last month, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. In this case, a group of fishermen sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for requiring payments for at-sea monitoring programs. The fishermen believed the NMFS did not have the ability to create such requirements. If the Supreme Court decides to rule in favor of the fishermen, the prior precedent of Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council will either be overturned, or the power agencies have to interpret their laws will be significantly limited.

Chevron was decided in 1984 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was regulating stationary sources under the Clean Air Act (CAA). It was ruled in Chevron that administrative agencies did, in fact, have the right to interpret laws reasonably, even if they were not clearly defined in the statute. This case was an important decision in allowing agencies — such as the EPA — to rely on their expert interpretation to implement regulations, rather than going through the courts for every matter.

Loper Bright affects the amount of interpretation federal agencies are permitted to have concerning laws related to their jurisdiction, such as environmental laws. Federal agencies like the EPA are made up of employees who are experts in their fields, such as ecologists, attorneys, chemists, engineers and more. Going against the precedent set by Chevron could result in the government being the sole entity in making decisions regarding ambiguous laws rather than experts from agencies. This would, in turn, result in environmental laws being decided by the courts rather than EPA employees.

This is concerning when it comes to environmental law because judges and justices do not study environmental science, ecology or other fields extensively to come to these decisions, whereas EPA employees do. Loper Bright is of utmost importance to all federal agencies and their interpretations, but environmental law is one area that demonstrates the importance of expert decision-making. Overturning Chevron in Loper Bright could have extreme consequences for the interpretation of environmental laws, replacing extensive research and science with political moves and slow decision-making.

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