Supreme Court returns Legislative Power

to the Legislative Branch


The Supreme Court delivered a long-awaited decision, West Virginia against the Environmental Protection Agency .. This decision severely restricts the EPA’s authority over carbon emission and is widely celebrated by those who want to limit regulatory power.

In its decision, the Court — via Chief Justice Roberts — determined that “Congress did not grant EPA in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act the authority to devise emissions caps based on the generation shifting approach the Agency took in the Clean Power Plan,” and that on the question of “whether the ‘best system of emission reduction’ identified by EPA in the Clean Power Plan was within the authority granted to the Agency in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act,” the answer is a resounding “No.”

The Court’s decision was more than a victory for the energy sector. We can see a future in which the legislature of government will actually have to legislate, according to the Court’s decision.

In today’s decision, the Supreme Court has determined that the rule-making is in the hands of the legislative, and not the executive. The power to grant Congress specific powers only allows the federal bureaucracy. This decision confirms the Constitution’s specific provisions regarding the power of each branch.

Article I of the Constitution specifically states that “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,” while Article II tasks the executive branch with taking care that “laws be faithfully executed.” There is a clear separation of powers between the two branches, and there is Supreme Court precedent that Congress isn’t allowed to “abdicate or to transfer to others the essential legislative functions with which it is thus vested,” as determined in A. L. A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States.

This gets at the root of the issue that brought us to our current decision. Congress has done this for decades. Congress has passed vague laws that federal agencies can interpret in their own way. This allows agencies of the executive branch to make new laws from almost nothing. As the executive branch tries to make its own rules, the lines blur between branches and weaken the checks and balances provided by the Constitution.

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Coal Plant, Supreme Court AP/Reuters Feed Library

For years, conservatives in Congress have been telling Republicans to take advantage of the power and influence of the purse to curb executive branch abuses. They are not. Their voters have given them the task of stopping runaway regulatory systems. That task has been abandoned by them. It is easy to conclude that the Congressional Republicans have become too lax in fighting those battles, which has led to the nation’s decline.

The EPA tried very hard to expand its regulatory power well beyond what the Clean Air Act of the 1970s allowed. If Congress had fought for its authority rather than giving it away, they would not likely have felt empowered to do this. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the agency has the power to do so. They are already exhausted by questions that Congress should be able to answer that have been left unanswered. This is a direct demand for Congress to do their job, and federal agencies not to overreach.

This is the way democracy should look, regardless of whether or not they like it (and they don’t). The federal bureaucracy is not responsible for saving the world. They also have no control over how the executive branches will go about doing so. The voters have the power to choose the candidates they wish to see implement the policies that they desire. If enough people care about the environment, they can elect the correct politicians. Then something can be done. You can revise and re-evaluate your campaign strategy if you don’t win the elections.

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This is how it should be. This is how you will actually achieve the changes you desire. It is not possible to get the change you want by overregulating the rest of the country.

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