May 28, 2024

The EPA is not the one facing scrutiny in this case, but rather the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In arguments in January, the Supreme Court appeared willing to disregard or limit the Chevron ruling completely, which would make expert decisions made by regulatory agencies subject to far more legal scrutiny. Just like the aforementioned FDA case, a judge can override the expertise of regulatory agencies and overturn rules, however specific and niche they may be. Public health experts have warned that this would dramatically limit the ability of agencies like the FDA and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to operate by subjecting them to routine legal interference.

Some examples of these rules implemented in the past year include: rules reducing methane from oil and gas production, rules allowing for increased dosages of methadone and allowing take-home doses, rules allowing for the health care coverage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, and much more. Every year, there are between 3,000 and 4,500 rules published in the Federal Register, according to the Congressional Research Service. Collectively, these rules help ensure that federal agencies can implement their mandate—they all touch on small but significant aspects of people’s lives. Disrupting this process may be disastrous.

Beyond legal attacks, conservative activists want to dramatically reduce the size of the federal workforce and remove civil service protections, thereby turning long-standing federal employees into essentially political appointees, serving at the pleasure of the president. Late in his presidency, Trump signed an executive order to strip away those protections for tens of thousands of government workers, but Joe Biden’s victory put an end to that—for now. Trump, if he wins, is expected to try to reenact the order, and he’s got some help from the Heritage Foundation, whose Project 2025 is working “to assemble an army of aligned, vetted, trained, and prepared conservatives to go to work on Day One to deconstruct the Administrative State.”