The Supreme Court rightly reinstated limits on executive agencies

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In the final weeks of the 2022 term of the United States Supreme Court, the justices have delivered some truly historic rulings. In doing so, the Court has done much to re-establish itself as an equal branch of government designed to uphold constitutionally guaranteed individual rights against unlawful governmental restraints, while upholding the constitutionally enshrined separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government and between the federal government and the states.

Cases decided by the Court included the president’s power to set immigration policy, state and local governments’ discrimination against expressions of religious faith, limits on gun rights, and the federal guarantee of access to abortion, among many other issues on which the Court has ruled.

As important as the decisions in this wide range of cases are, West Virginia v. EPA is arguably the largest and most ambitious from an economic point of view, and with respect to the separation and delegation of powers of the Constitution.

Ruling 6–3, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, states that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to use an arcane provision of the Clean Air Act to usurp the authority of long standing of states to manage their electric grids is unconstitutional. gathering. In its 2015 Clean Energy Plan, the EPA tried to force states to shut down coal-fired power plants, limit the use of natural gas, and expand wind and solar generation to “decarbonize” supply. American electric.

The majority of the court found that Congress never gave the EPA the sweeping authority needed to prohibit the use of fossil fuels for electricity to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

The Constitution delegates to Congress alone the power to regulate interstate commerce. Unelected bureaucrats cannot usurp that power by addressing major issues, that is, politically and economically significant policies, without clear direction from Congress. Carbon dioxide is everywhere, and severely limiting it by restructuring the national power grid is a major undertaking that would impose billions of dollars in costs, affect millions of jobs, and disrupt every sector of the economy. Overhauling the national electric grid, as the EPA has attempted to do, is a major political undertaking that Congress has not delegated to the EPA.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a national transition away from using coal to generate electricity can be a ‘sense solution to the crisis of the day,'” the chief justice wrote. John Roberts (pdf). “But it is implausible that Congress would have given the EPA the authority to adopt such a regulatory scheme on its own initiative…. A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or to an agency acting under clear delegation from that representative body.

Not only did the majority of the Court find that Congress never explicitly granted the EPA the kind of power it claimed, but Congress also repeatedly took up proposals to limit carbon dioxide emissions. carbon and had chosen not to enact them, Roberts noted.

“Basically, the Clean Power Plan essentially adopted a cap and trade system, or a set of state cap and trade systems, for carbon,” Roberts wrote. “Congress, however, has consistently rejected proposals to amend the Clean Air Act to create such a program. … He also refused to pass similar measures, such as a carbon tax.

The concurring opinion of Judge Neil Gorsuch expanded Roberts’ reasoning. The choice of Congress not to act on an issue that a particular presidential administration may deem important is not a subsidy to executive agencies to take action on their own.

According to Gorsuch, “When Congress seems slow to resolve issues, it is perhaps natural for members of the executive branch to seek to take matters into their own hands. But the Constitution does not allow agencies to use pen-and-phone regulations to replace laws passed by representatives of the people. In our Republic, ‘[i]It is the particular domain of the legislature to prescribe general rules for the government of society.

Commenting on the decision, ST Karnick, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, said: “The Supreme Court has rightly stayed its course in this case, as the Trump Court increasingly does, restoring the separation of powers that is necessary to avoid tyranny while leaving political matters to Congress. … Regardless of one’s opinion of the policy the rule was meant to establish, the EPA had no power to enforce it.

The Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA has implications far beyond EPA’s desire to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The Court’s reasoning also limits the ability of Cabinet departments, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation, as well as executive agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to regulate. greenhouse gas emissions. . If the EPA, responsible for environmental protection, cannot restructure the economy to limit greenhouse gas emissions, other departments or agencies for which environmental protection is at best tangential to neither can their skills.

The Court’s decision also goes beyond the issue of climate change. With this ruling, the Court effectively informed federal agencies that the separation of powers doctrine is alive and well and only Congress makes law. Going forward, Cabinet departments and executive agencies will need to exercise appropriate restraint and humility when regulating, strictly adhering to their mission and the letter of laws passed by Congress. If executive agencies adopt policies that involve major issues, courts will no longer necessarily defer to their judgments as to whether a particular rule or policy is justified or sanctioned by Congress.

Much remains to be done to halt dangerous efforts to end fossil fuel use and restructure the economy to the liking of far-left elitists. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in EPA v. West Virginia is a good start to limit the vast overreach that executive agencies have forged over the past few decades.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

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Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a senior environmental policy fellow at the Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.


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