Politics Opinion

U.S. Supreme Court considers crippling regulators' powers

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The nine justices of the Supreme Court, six of whom are Republican-appointed (Screenshot via YouTube)

A looming decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may see a profound, frightening loss of U.S. regulatory agencies’ powers.

Yet another legacy of the Trump Presidency, with the potential outcome providing for a grim future for Americans.

A matter before the Court, with its majority of six Republican-appointed justices out of nine, will decide whether to prevent the following agencies' powers:

  • the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate pollutants;
  • the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to keep our food supply safe;
  • the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee drugs going onto the market;
  • the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect workers;
  • the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to keep dangerous toys and consumer products off the market;
  • the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate monopolies;
  • the Department of Transportation (DOT) to come up with highway and automobile safety standards;
  • the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to regulate guns;
  • the Interior Department to regulate drilling and mining on federal lands;
  • the Forest Service to protect our woodlands and rivers;
  • the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect us from internet predators; and
  • and the Department of Labour to protect workers’ rights.

The case Loper Bright Enterprises v Gina Raimondo basically involves a complaint from a group of commercial herring fishing companies claiming the relevant statute does not specify that the industry may be required to bear the cost of industry-funded monitoring programs in New England fishery management plans.

Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney, currently a law professor and a legal analyst for MSNBC and NBC, writes a regular column focused on former President Donald Trump’s legal issues and matters that reflect his disastrous policies. 

She described the Loper Bright case as:

‘...an effort to end or at least severely limit the reach of Chevron deference, a longstanding doctrine that determines when the courts are supposed to defer to an executive branch agency’s interpretation of a law.’

A successful challenge would limit the ability of government regulations ending or severely limiting America’s most protective government regulations. Instead of administrative agencies interpreting the law, this case is about whether the courts should substitute their judgement for those of experts. A successful challenge will be opening the door to court challenges to every regulatory agency.

According to a U.S. media report, in June 2022 when a group of Right-wing Supreme Court justices overturned rules made by the EPA about CO2 emissions from power plants, it set up the fishing industry challenge.

Their rationale was that because the legislation that created the EPA doesn’t specifically mention “regulating CO2”, the agency lacks that power.

In 2017, Steve Bannon, then White House chief strategist for Trump, declared the Administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state”.

Bannon further elaborated:

“...meaning the system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the President says have stymied economic growth and infringed U.S. sovereignty.”

And further:

“Trump’s cabinet picks are intended to deconstruct regulation and agencies.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is a major source of controversy and concern as a result of many contentious decisions, including overturning Roe v Wade and ending the right to abortion creating desperate situations for many women — an issue which is a primary focus in the forthcoming November elections.

In 2022, the Supreme Court expanded gun rights nationwide and established that firearms rules must be consistent with the nation’s “historical traditions”, reported CNN.

The Court is currently considering a section of federal law that bars an individual subject to a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm.

Three of the judges were appointed by Trump.

Reports detail links between the Republican judges and the fossil fuel industry. The father of Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee, was a lawyer for Shell Oil for decades; John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh received the necessary support to be appointed to the Supreme Court from a network funded by fossil fuel billionaires and their industry.

ProPublica revealed last year of secret participation by Justice Clarence Thomas in donor events organised by the Koch Network, an extreme Right-wing network founded by the Koch brothers.

The Koch Network actively funds and supports organisations that contribute significantly to Republican candidates, promote climate change denial and lobby against efforts to expand the Government’s role in health care and climate change mitigation.

Koch lawyers are involved in the current litigation. Many Americans have no idea of the ramifications of the case, much less the challenge.

Meantime, Trump is doing his best to make a mockery of the U.S. justice system. All eyes will be on the Supreme Court if it takes up Trump’s efforts to declare he has immunity from prosecution in any federal charges against him.

The vision of a second Trump presidency with a Republican-dominated Supreme Court at his beck and call guarantees nightmares.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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