A post-Chevron world will remake the ESA and other green laws

By Michael Doyle | 07/01/2024 01:40 PM EDT

“I think it’s safe to say the Fish and Wildlife Service has relied upon Chevron deference in defending ESA regulations for many, many decades,” said Charles Yates, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation.

The U.S. Supreme Court building.

The U.S. Supreme Court. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Supreme Court last Friday empowered federal judges, weakened executive agencies and reshaped how laws will be interpreted, all with a 6-3 decision ending the so-called Chevron doctrine expanded judicial deference. While the ruling in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo will resonate governmentwide, certain species-protecting and other environmental laws could be among the most affected.

The now-defunct Chevron doctrine established in 1984 directed judges to defer to agencies’ reasonable reading of an ambiguous statute. Because ambiguity can be rampant in environmental statutes, determining deference can be the difference between winning and losing.

For instance:


“Where there is ambiguity in a statute, as with the meaning of ‘significant,’ the agency charged with administering the statute, in this case the Service, has broad discretion to resolve the ambiguity and give meaning to the term,” the agency declared, adding that this interpretation involves “difficult policy choices that agencies are better equipped to make than courts.”