By Connie Reguli
On June 30, 2022 the United States Supreme Court filed an opinion in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency which significantly curtailed the authority of the EPA to restrict the production of energy in existing power plants relying on coal.
For years I have screamed out, “the problem with government is no one stays in their own lane”. Meaning that the judiciary acts like a legislature, the agencies act like law makers and law enforcement, and law enforcement acts like judges.. No one stays within the limits of their constitutional boundaries.
The decision in WV v. EPA deals directly with a bureaucratic agency acting like legislators and law enforcement. In 2015 (Obama), the EPA enacted that Clean Power Plant rule which severely restricted emissions from this nation’s power plants. (Reminding you, of course, that the liberals also want everyone to drive electric cars which depend on power generated by these plants.)
This move by the EPA hit the proverbial nerve of major power producers including those in the state of West Virginia. The goal of these EPA regulations was to shut down coal production in the United States and shift to natural gas and “renewables”, i.e., wind and solar. For the state of West Virginia, this was like sticking their head in the guillotine. The year following this EPA decision, coal production dropped in WV by 20 million tons: an economic blow to WV.
The Trump administration repealed the Clean Power Plant rule in 2017, by the time this case came to the Supreme Court, the administration had changed again to democrat control.
Looking to the SCOTUS decision the syllabus explains that the Agency determined that the interpretive
question raised by the Clean Power Plan fell under the major questions doctrine. Under that doctrine, it determined, a clear statement is necessary for a court to conclude that Congress intended to delegate authority “of this breadth to regulate a fundamental sector of the economy.” It found none.
In other words, this executive branch agency could not rely on a vague statute to give itself broad regulatory authority that had not otherwise been approved by Congress.
CNN report states this: Kirti Datla, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit focused on litigating climate issues, said this case paves the way for Republican-led states and fossil fuel companies to challenge current and future EPA rules on planet-warming emissions.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that the court produced an opinion that did exactly what the challengers [GOP-led states and coal companies] wanted,” Datla said.
In its opinion, the court cut back agency authority by invoking the Major Questions Doctrine — a ruling that will impact the federal government’s authority to regulate in other areas of climate policy, as well as regulation of the internet and worker safety. It says that the biggest issues should be decided by Congress itself, not agencies like the EPA.
“Prior to today, the court would look at [an agency] and say ‘this decision is within your lane and expertise and we’re going to defer to your technical decision here,'” said Jay Duffy, an attorney and expert on power plant emissions at the Clean Air Task Force. “Today, unless the actual rule you have chosen has been clearly authorized by the Congress, you don’t have the authority to do it.”
DOES THIS RULING EFFECT OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCIES
AT THE STATE AND FEDERAL LEVEL?
Many citizens have faced frustrations with executive branch agencies at the state and federal level where the agencies create their own rules, regulations, and policies that are not otherwise authorized by lawmakers. For years I battled the overreach of the Department of Children’s Services in the State of Tennessee who made their own rules and kept them secret until they needed to wield some power over an unsuspecting parent. Although the Supreme Court ruling does NOT give us significant power to rely on this to curtail other agencies, it provides a strong argument that executive branch agencies cannot make rules that limit the lives and businesses of citizens without an Act of Congress.
It looks likes Congress needs to get back to work running this Country.