Observe This: Why the Chevron Doctrine Must Stay Afloat

In Articles by hmtannenbaum

In the swirling currents of legal debate, one principle stands as a beacon of accountability amidst the storm: the Chevron Doctrine. The Doctrine is a vital tool used by the courts to hold federal agencies accountable and is an instrument that has guided federal regulatory law for nearly four decades. But its continued existence is up for debate in the Supreme Court. The ongoing case Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo has thrust the Chevron doctrine into the spotlight. As the Supreme Court mulls over its fate, let’s dive into why keeping the Chevron doctrine intact is not just a good idea—it’s the buoy we need to navigate the choppy waters of environmental regulation.

What is the Chevron Doctrine?

At its core, the Chevron doctrine dictates that when the interpretation of a law is in question, deference should be given to federal agencies, provided their interpretation is deemed reasonable. However, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo is challenging the validity of this doctrine, igniting fierce debate among legal scholars, environmental advocates, and industry stakeholders.

What does it have to do with the ocean?

The crux of the case lies in the requirement for industry-funded federal observers aboard fishing vessels in the northern Atlantic, aimed at monitoring and preventing overfishing of Atlantic herring—a vital component of both the region’s food web and fishing economy. Such regulations are essential for preserving marine ecosystems and ensuring the sustainability of fisheries, particularly in the face of warming waters and increased strain on fish populations. However, opponents of the Chevron doctrine, including prominent conservative litigators and advocacy groups, have framed the debate as a David vs. Goliath struggle, portraying federal regulations as burdensome impositions on small businesses and individuals. But the reality is more nuanced, with federal agencies often providing reimbursement for monitoring costs, thereby mitigating the financial impact on industry stakeholders.

What’s at stake?

The doctrine, born from the noble pursuit of clarity in regulatory interpretation, has been the cornerstone of federal environmental law for over four decades. To abandon it now would be to cast aside years of progress in favor of a perilous voyage into the unknown. To be blunt, the doctrine determines who gets to call the shots: experts with firsthand knowledge of environmental science, or judges with little more than a gavel and a penchant for legal jargon. The consequences of overturning Chevron would be more than just a drop in the ocean—they would create a wave of uncertainty, washing away decades of progress in environmental regulation. From climate change mitigation to fisheries management, the ripple effects would be felt far and wide, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake.

The answer seems clear: when it comes to protecting our air, water, and wildlife, we need decision-makers who are well-versed in the nuances of ecological balance, not theorists playing a high-stakes game of judicial roulette.