major questions doctrine
Scholars don’t know the answer. Nor, apparently, do the federal courts of appeals.
In West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court used the “major question doctrine” to overturn Obama’s signature climate change regulation. Once an issue reaches a certain level of significance, the Court says, Congress generally would want to make its own decision rather than allowing an agency like EPA to decide. Scholars have criticized the opinion …CONTINUE READING
Ironically, a conservative legal doctrine might block some of his excesses.
Trump hasn’t been at all secretive about plans for a possible second term. He has plans, big plans. So big, in fact, that they may collide with a conservative judicial rule called the Major Question Doctrine (MQD). Since the Court has mostly used the MQD to block initiatives by Democratic presidents, it would be more …CONTINUE READING
Will the major questions doctrine block EPA’s proposed rules?
Biden v. Nebraska, the student loan case, provided a new opportunity for the Court to apply the major question doctrine. Does this decision increase the threat that EPA’s proposed new regulations will be struck down under this doctrine? A careful reading of the majority opinion is at least somewhat reassuring. The Court painted a picture …CONTINUE READING
The Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA will be bad for the nation’s wetlands. It is just as bad for democracy.
The Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to defend a large portion of the nation’s wetlands and waterways from pollution. The decision strips key environmental protections from the Clean Water Act by narrowly defining which bodies of water can be regulated under the Act, making it the most …CONTINUE READING
The climate crisis is unprecedented. So is its legal fallout.
In teaching my class on Climate Law, I’ve been struck by how many new legal questions courts are confronting as a result of the climate crisis. Dealing with these new legal questions is going to put stress on existing legal doctrines and require courts to rethink some basic principles. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is pushing …CONTINUE READING
Defending clean car regulations and tracking judicial decision-making
Last June, the Supreme Court formally unveiled the “major questions” doctrine in the landmark environmental case West Virginia v. EPA. In rejecting EPA’s plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, the Court stated that “agency decisions of vast economic and political significance” (i.e., those …CONTINUE READING
The current Justices are no friends of presidential power.
As recent scholarship has shown, the Supreme Court has been increasingly aggressive in countering exercises of presidential power. From the environmental perspective, West Virginia v. EPA is the most relevant example of the Court’s efforts to cut the presidency down to size. True, the Court purported to be chastising EPA, part of the bureaucracy. Yet …CONTINUE READING
There are two versions of the doctrine. One of them is more dangerous.
When it struck down Obama’s signature climate regulation in West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court formally adopted the major questions doctrine as a way to synthesize prior anti-regulatory rulings. The major questions doctrine (MQD to insiders) has gotten a lot of attention. One thing that’s been overlooked, however, is that there are two versions …CONTINUE READING
It’s not the game changer some people think, but IRA could help in several ways.
There’s been a lot of recent talk about whether the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) indirectly overrides West Virginia v. EPA. The answer to that is probably “no.” However, some IRA provisions will help lawyers defend certain regulatory actions. IRA may also have an important framing effect when courts are considering the reasonableness of agency actions. …CONTINUE READING
We’re beginning to get a clearer understanding of the major questions doctrine.
In November, I wrote a post posing “some major questions about the major questions doctrine.” In West Virginia v. EPA, Chief Justice Roberts starts supplying some answers to those questions. In particular, he seems to be using a narrower four-factor approach to decide what constitutes a “major question.” As we all know, the West Virginia case …CONTINUE READING