A new Supreme Court ruling on a case involving fishermen has Utah lawmakers excited and they believe it could be critical for the state.

Sen. Mike Lee, Reps. John Curtis, Burgess Owens and Celeste Maloy, as well as Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes say Friday’s announced decision will have positive implications for the Beehive State.

The case started when a New England fishing company sued over federal monitoring that it said cost them money. Making its way up to the highest court in the country, there was a precedent at the heart of the case: Chevron deference. It’s a legal test to determine when agencies get to choose how to interpret the law rather than the courts.

Now the Supreme Court has overturned that doctrine. This means when the courts review agency actions, they have the power to interpret the law. For the last 40 years, agencies could interpret the law if Congress was ambiguous or silent and agencies had put forward a reasonable or permissible interpretation of law.

In other words, the power of policies put forward by unelected bureaucrats will be checked by the courts. Utah political leaders say that this will be helpful to the state, especially given how much land in the state is owned by the federal government.

East of the Mississippi River, the federal government only owns around 4% of the land. But in the West, the feds own much more — upwards of two-thirds of the land in Utah alone.

Related
The Supreme Court just sided with conservatives in a major battle over federal power
The Supreme Court decision that could rock Utah

Curtis: Bureaucrats have been bypassing Congress

“For too long, Washington bureaucrats have bypassed Congress to enact federal rules, a practice not intended by our founders,” said Curtis in a statement. “I am pleased that SCOTUS moved to restore power to the people by reinforcing Congressional authority.”

Curtis said Congress needs to step up and called the ruling “a major victory.”

“This is particularly significant for Utah, where nearly 70% of our land is federally owned and represents a major victory for those of us who feel many federal agencies are enacting rules beyond the intent of Congress,” said Curtis.

A couple weeks ahead of the decision release, Curtis said in a phone interview that agencies like the Bureau of Land Management have unchecked authority to take large swaths of land, and expressed frustration on the lack of ability to push back on bad decisions.

Curtis called it a “false narrative” to say Chevron leads to the protection and conservation of lands.

“I am confident that locally they understand better than in Washington how to preserve and protect these for future generations and at the same time make them available for the many uses that we like to use them for here in Utah,” he said.

Lee: Overturning Chevron is the beginning, not the end

Lee took to social media to share his thoughts on the decision. He said he sees the power lawmakers have outsourced to bureaucrats as “the single most important issue federal officials must confront.”

Instead of Congress passing laws, it has given its lawmaking power to “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats,” said Lee. “There are a number of problems with this approach. The Constitution makes Congress the sole lawmaking organ of the federal government.”

Lee said the rules and regulations federal agencies enact have the impact that a federal law. “In countless circumstances, failure to abide by them can result in heavy fines, having your business shut down, and even imprisonment.”

“Chevron made life easier for Congress, the courts, and federal agencies, but that is precisely the problem — it made it even harder for the people to hold those who make laws accountable,” wrote Lee. “The demise of Chevron needs to be the beginning, and not the end, of a long-overdue process of reform in this area”

Maloy: Major victory if Congress does its job

Maloy said the ruling rebalanced the powers the Constitution sets forward and called it a victory — if Congress steps up.

“For too long Congress has written vague laws that pushed the details to the agencies,” said Maloy on social media. “It’s Congress’s job to write legislation that benefits the American people and not leave it to unelected bureaucrats. I hope this ruling will remind members of Congress of our proper role.”

Permitting reform is an example, said Maloy.

“From the northern corridor road project in Washington County to the Uinta Basin railroad, Utah has felt the impact of government agencies stalling or thwarting the wishes of local and state government,” said Maloy. “More detailed legislation on permitting reform is an example of what the court is asking from Congress in its ruling today.”

Maloy said government regulation is “an invisible tax” on families.

In a social media post, Rep. Burgess Owens said, “By overturning the 1984 Chevron decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied regulators the ability to act like legislators. That power now returns to the people’s representatives.”

It’s not just Utah’s leaders on the national stage that are excited by the ruling, House Speaker Schultz, R-Hooper, told the Deseret News in a statement Utah is ready to defend its rights after decades of federal overreach devastating the state’s lands, economy and people.

Utah state leaders say they’re ready and prepared to act

The new precedent gives Utah “a powerful tool to challenge and dismantle these unchecked policies imposed by unelected federal agencies,” said Schultz, adding that the state Legislature has tasked every agency with finding federal regulations that step beyond congressional intent. He said the Utah attorney general has filed lawsuits in response to the findings.

“No other legislative branch in the nation has fought federal overreach as relentlessly as Utah,” said Schultz. “This decision marks the beginning of even greater victories in our battle for state sovereignty.”

Cox called the decision “great news” in a social media post where he included a video message he shared in May to Congressional leaders and business leaders. In the video, he said he was frustrated by Chevron deference and thinks overturning the decision could be positive for the state.

“The principle of deferring to a federal agency’s interpretation of a federal statute, as long as that interpretation is reasonable, has for the past 40 years empowered federal agencies to grow their missions and expand their power in ways that are consistently bad for state authority, bad for economic growth and bad for individual liberty and human flourishing,” said Cox.

Senate President Adams, R-Layton, said the ruling properly restored the balance of power and also restored democratic representation.

“Repeatedly, federal agencies have used Chevron deference to disregard the proper role of government,” said Adams. “We’ve witnessed unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats implement stringent regulations in our own state, placing undue strain and unrealistic standards without oversight for far too long.”

Adams said he was grateful the Constitution is being upheld.

“We in Utah, anticipating a favorable ruling, had the foresight to pass legislation authorizing state agencies to identify and report state government functions adversely affected by Chevron’s deference to the attorney general’s office,” said Adams. “This information will be vital as we rectify unconstitutional federal regulations that have significantly harmed our state and citizens.”

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said he and his team “laud SCOTUS for reversing a 40-year error” and called Chevron doctrine “one of the most dangerous threats to the individual liberties of Americans.”

165
Comments

Reyes said as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, he was proud as they argued as a coalition of states that Chevron Doctrine needed to be overturned.

“It gave vast, and at times, seemingly unending powers to unelected bureaucrats who had no direct accountability to the People or its representatives in Congress,” said Reyes in a statement.

Reyes said activist courts weaponized Chevron “to grow big government and promote partisan interests at the expense of personal freedoms and local control from states.”

“With no Democrat recourse, federal bureaucracies could blatantly disregard the will or intent of Congress under the guise of ambiguity, while ignoring local or state laws and furthering their own political agendas or personal interests,” said Reyes.

Related
Utah’s House delegation says Supreme Court decision will force Congress to do its job
Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.