Members of Utah’s House congressional delegation took their colleagues to task at a panel on Thursday before a who’s who of Utah business leaders.

For decades, members of Congress have abdicated the people’s authority over industry, land and trade and have given it to a ballooning bureaucracy, the four federal legislators said.

But a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court this summer could force the nation’s highest governing body to retake their mantle, and responsibility, of lawmaking, they said.

“Let’s be honest about where the blame lies,” Rep. Celeste Maloy, of Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, told the group of Utah elites gathered on the top floor of the Zions Bank building in downtown Salt Lake City. “These agencies have authority that’s been delegated to the executive branch by the legislative branch, and we always had the authority to take it back. We haven’t done it.”

What is the Balancing Act Project?

Maloy, and Utah’s other Republican House representatives, Blake Moore, John Curtis and Burgess Owens, headlined the event hosted by the Balancing Act Project, a new national lobbying organization that selected Utah as the location to launch its effort to reshape the country’s regulatory environment.

“We chose Utah because Utah has a tradition of questioning the one-size-fits-all approach from Washington,” Balancing Act Project founder Keith Nahigian said.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization says it was created to prepare Congress for the power vacuum that will be created if a 1984 decision that gives broad policymaking authority to unelected federal officials is repealed.

The Supreme Court battle conservatives have been waiting for

Close observers say the nation’s top court is likely to overturn a 40-year-old precedent, known as the “Chevron deference” doctrine, that requires judges to defer to federal government agencies on the interpretation of laws they enforce unless Congress provides specific direction.

According to Nahigian, the legislative leeway given to unaccountable agencies has led to a burdensome body of regulation that harms small businesses, frustrates important projects and exacerbates inflation for America’s working people.

Is Chevron deference bad for Utah?

The message from the state’s members of Congress, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who joined via video call, and the state’s top industry representatives was that Congress must step up and craft laws that do the hard work of detailing how policies are to be implemented nationwide, instead of leaving it up to federal agencies that change hands every four to eight years.

“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,” Cox said.

Removing this deference will make federal agencies much more dependent on congressional direction, something Congress has often avoided, according to Maloy, preferring instead to pass vague laws and blame agencies for bad outcomes.

“We’re going to have to do a lot better job of our jobs if ‘Chevron’ gets overturned,” Maloy said. “We’re going to have to write better bills. ... We’re going to have to be ready.”

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But Moore, who represents Utah’s 1st District, isn’t so sure Congress is up to the task.

“Will Congress actually do its job?” Moore asked. “If we are unwilling to do our job as members of Congress and actually find a workable solution to all of these issues, then this will be a moot point.”

As to what Congress’ job is, Moore said lawmakers should do all they can to create an environment where businesses, workers and the American dream can thrive. Moore’s constituents tell him the biggest impediment to that is intrusive and out-of-touch federal agencies, he said.

Curtis, who represents Utah’s 3rd District, which is 90% federally owned outside of a small area along the Wasatch Front, said a recent Biden administration policy that allows the Bureau of Land Management to lease land for conservation purposes and prevent other uses for the area is a good example of how Chevron deference has emboldened agencies to take a powerful role in shaping how Americans live their lives, Curtis said.

“When we do that, we basically empower people who live 2,000 miles away to make decisions about the land, impacting local economies, energy, agriculture,” Curtis said.

Owens, who represents the 4th District, said if the U.S. Supreme Court follows the example of the Utah Supreme Court, which eliminated judicial deference to agency interpretations of statues, the country will see more business owners succeed and the middle class grow.

“This will allow us to be back where we the people can speak for the values we have in the country versus bureaucrats that become bullies in D.C.” Owens said.

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Business leaders praise Utah’s federal lawmakers

Business leaders, including the heads of industry associations that represent banking, food production, mining, oil and manufacturing, lamented unpredictable and unreasonable federal regulations and praised Utah’s House delegation for being the most accessible and business-friendly in the nation.


Utah was recently ranked the best state to start a business, the best state to find a job and the best state overall, Salt Lake Chamber CEO Derek Miller noted.

“Utah has built an economy that is the envy of the nation,” Miller said. “A cornerstone of our economy is a business-friendly environment. We are grateful to our congressional delegation — the best congressional delegation in the country — because they recognize the role that government plays is supporting and accelerating and unleashing the power of free enterprise.”

But in a post-Chevron world, according to Maloy, there will still be a lot work that needs to be done to replicate the “Utah Way” at the national level.

“If we can’t just defer to the agencies anymore than we have to do some soul searching and some researching on the regulations that exist,” Maloy said. “And so we’re going to have to go into a mindset that I think Utah already has that it takes a really good regulation to be better than no new regulation.”

Utah ranked the No. 1 overall state by U.S. News and World Report
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