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In major ruling, US Supreme Court guts power of regulatory agencies

The US supreme court has dealt a significant blow to federal regulatory power by overturning a 1984 precedent that had given deference to government agencies in interpreting laws they administer.
The decision, which was handed down on Friday, marks a defeat for US President Joe Biden’s administration and is the latest in a series of rulings by the US supreme court’s conservative majority that have limited the authority of federal agencies.
The case at issue involved a challenge by fishing companies to a government-run program that monitored overfishing of herring off the coast of New England. The program, which was partly funded by the industry, required certain commercial fishermen to carry government contractors aboard their vessels and pay for their at-sea services while they monitored the catch.
The companies argued that the regulation exceeded the authority of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the Commerce Department.
The supreme court ruled 6-3 in favor of the fishing companies, overturning the “Chevron deference” doctrine that had called for judges to defer to reasonable federal agency interpretations of US laws deemed to be ambiguous. The doctrine, which has long been opposed by conservatives and business interests, arose from a 1984 ruling involving oil company Chevron.
The decision is part of a broader effort by conservative groups and corporate interests to weaken the federal agency bureaucracy that interprets laws, crafts federal rules, and implements executive action. The supreme court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, has signaled skepticism toward expansive regulatory power in recent years, issuing rulings to rein in what its conservative justices have viewed as overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies.
The Biden administration had defended the National Marine Fisheries Service regulation and the Chevron deference doctrine, arguing that it “gives due weight to the expertise that agencies bring to bear” and promotes national uniformity in the administration of federal law.
However, an attorney for the commercial fishermen argued that Chevron deference “incentivizes a dynamic where Congress does far less than the Framers (of the US Constitution) anticipated, and the executive branch is left to do far more by deciding controversial issues via regulatory fiat.”

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