Supreme Court Reins in the Bureaucracy

The EPA overstepped its regulatory authority when it unilaterally expanded its power over business without Congress’s consent.

The 2021-2022 term of the U.S. Supreme Court will long be remembered primarily for its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. However, the down-ticket cases also featured some rather significant decisions. In fact, we could sum up the term as one marked by a commitment to constitutional fidelity — much more so than the nation has enjoyed from the Court in recent memory.

One of the Court’s last decisions of the term proved to be a big win against the seemingly ever-encroaching power of unelected government bureaucrats. In West Virginia v. EPA, the justices handed down a 6-3 decision that directly rebuked the power-grabbing apparatus of the executive branch via its various agencies, in this case the Environmental Protection Agency.

Using the Clean Air Act, the EPA, beginning during the Obama administration, developed increasingly onerous and expansive regulatory powers so as to effectively gain control over the nation’s energy businesses. Barack Obama’s EPA, using the Clean Air Act of 2014, developed the Clean Power Plan, which effectively targeted America’s coal industry for elimination. Under Joe Biden, the EPA has followed suit by using the Clean Power Plan to target the broader fossil fuel industry. Of course, all of these anti-fossil fuel actions have been justified and carried out under the dubious claim of combating climate change.

West Virginia sued, contending that the EPA was overstepping its regulatory authority, and the Court agreed. “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible solution to the crisis of the day,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme. A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation.”

Roberts further observed, “We also find it ‘highly unlikely that Congress would leave’ to ‘agency discretion’ the decision of how much coal-based generation there should be over the coming decades.”

The ruling is a long-deserved rebuke of the bureaucratic state. Indeed, by some measure it is the development of Washington’s unelected and unaccountable bureaucratic state that led to the election of Donald Trump. Americans were (and still are) tired of elites in DC making decisions about every facet of our lives without any elected officials being directly involved in the process. In fact, the source of the great divide between the Left and the Right in the nation today can in many ways be laid at the feet of the unelected bureaucratic state. Those on the Left have almost entirely eschewed the idea of democratic values in favor of whatever ensures the furtherance of their political/social agenda.

This reality was even evident in the minority’s dissent, in which Justice Elena Kagan reasoned that the attainment of a political objective matters more than holding to the constitutionally delineated separation of powers. “If the current rate of emissions continues, children born this year could live to see parts of the Eastern seaboard swallowed by the ocean,” Kagan lamented. “Rising waters, scorching heat, and other severe weather conditions could force ‘mass migration events[,] political crises, civil unrest,’ and ‘even state failure,’” she further added, “and by the end of this century, climate change could be the cause of ‘4.6 million excess yearly deaths.’”

Of course, when it came to ruling on an issue that actually does impact the life or death of individuals — Roe v. Wade — Kagan was conspicuously on the other side, attempting to argue that abortion was a constitutionally recognized right when in truth it never has been.

Kagan was far from alone, of course. Headlines in mainstream media fretted over how much harder fighting climate change will now be. And Democrats sounded a five-alarm fire. “Our planet is on fire,” bemoaned Senator Elizabeth Warren, “and this extremist Supreme Court has destroyed the federal government’s ability to fight back.” Others threatened to remake the Court. “Catastrophic,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wailed. “A filibuster carveout is not enough. We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet.”

Beyond Biden’s heaping abuse onto the Supreme Court on foreign soil and ridiculously asserting that “the Court is legislating” when the opposite is true, the question now is this: How will the president and his leftist handlers respond to this ruling moving forward? Given the fact that the Left never gives up, Biden will likely seek to get around the Court by both ignoring the ruling and moving ahead with his anti-fossil fuel agenda. But he may also declare climate change to be a national emergency in order to enact his agenda without the bothersome need of congressional action.

“I can not share the ‘elation’ of my colleagues on the Supreme Court EPA decision,” meteorologist Joe Bastardi observed. “I have seen them for too long. They will find a way around, and exhaust people taking them to court. These are Marxists and Zealots, and they only obey what suits them. This will likely accelerate the idea I have that Biden is going to declare a climate emergency, and probably use the hurricane season to do it.” He added, "People behind this really woke up with Donald Trump’s election and they will only accept fundamental transformation of our way of life.“

Back here in the land of Liberty, the Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA is a big win not only for America’s coal and fossil fuel industries but for America’s commitment to the Constitution’s separation of powers. It is the legislative branch, not the executive, that has been granted the power to write our nation’s laws. The more this abuse by a bureaucratic state is eliminated, the better it will be for the nation as a whole.

(Updated)

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