Environmental attorney talks possible end to Chevron deference

By Alex Guillén | 06/17/2024 12:35 PM EDT

The Supreme Court is poised to reverse a 40-year-old precedent, and the man who lost that case argues the high court is making a mistake.

A person protests outside of the U.S Supreme Court.

A person protests outside the Supreme Court on June 14. Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Forty years ago, environmental attorney David Doniger lost a case before the Supreme Court. And now he’s hoping it stays that way.

“Everything about this case was a surprise,” Doniger, who argued for the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1984 and still works there now as a top attorney and strategist, told the POLITICO Energy podcast.

The case that reached the Supreme Court was styled as Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council and involved a fight over what the term “stationary source” meant under the Clean Air Act. The Reagan administration contended it denoted emissions across an entire plant, which meant a facility could install new equipment so long as its total emissions did not increase. The NRDC contended the law treated each piece of equipment as its own source.


“They wanted to define source in a way that exempted 90 percent of the big industrial projects that otherwise would have been covered by these pollution control requirements,” Doniger said.