SCOTUS tells governmental agencies no more carte blanche power

May 26 – In a 5-4 decision on the reasoning by the United States Supreme Court yesterday, the judges ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in a case in Idaho over wetlands. 

The EPA was trying to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act, but the Court said no, suggesting that the interpretation by the EPA was inconsistent with the language in the act. 

The decision reversed one made by a US Court of Appeals, which had sided with the EPA. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This is a big decision that a lot of people around the country were watching very closely. This has been a dispute that’s been going on for years.” 

The bottom line in the decision was could the EPA just proclaim rules without legislative approval? In a lot of cases, policies would be adopted through the executive branch. 

Barkdoll noted, “These agencies, whatever their regulations are, are the law in as much as they are enforceable.” 

The Court cut that power yesterday. 

Barkdoll said, “Now they do have the power to engage in what are called more de minimis actions, things that deal with more day to day type operations, but not something that would deal with the entire way the Clean Water Act is regulated. This decision you could see spilling out into all sorts of administrative agencies and it may really curtail the power they have, which essentially then takes it back to Congress and the president to figure out what rules should or should not be enforced here.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I’m glad the Court is seeing the danger of these administrative bodies making law essentially and having that kind of authority. Thankfully the Court is recognizing it, but it really shows us how Congress has given up this power to these agencies and it can cause a lot of harm.” 

Barkdoll added, “Look how powerful these agencies have become. Arguably they have more power and more enforcement mechanisms than Congress itself would have or the executive branch. This was a 5-4 decision, it was a very close split, but the Court has said that no, these agencies can’t just go out and out of whole cloth create these blanket policies that really affect all sorts of businesses and individuals without Congressional and/or executive input.” 

A headline in the Wall Street Journal uses the words “erodes the EPA’s power.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “You’d think you’d be championing the farmer. You’d be championing business instead of eroding the EPA’s power. Are you championing the EPA or are you championing small business?” 

Barkdoll said, “For what it’s worth, they do have an editorial today talking about this is a win for liberty. That’s their lead editorial today. There are often headline writers and they are totally separate from the editorial team and even the news writing team. I would have written that headline differently because people that just read the headline I think may have a different takeaway from it, but their lead editorial today, their title is ‘A Clean Water landmark for liberty at the Supreme Court’ and they praise this decision from the Supreme Court.”