NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Implications for Government Regulation in Supreme Court Case

October 16, 2000

Legal experts say Browner v. American Trucking Associations has the potential to become one of the Supreme Court's most significant business and environmental rulings in many years. The case, which puts on trial the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory standards for pollutants, has American industries watching closely -- with many companies and groups filing "friend of the court" briefs siding with the truckers.

  • The business groups are arguing that regulatory agencies have gotten into the habit of making rules that are way too broad -- and that bureaucrats are unconstitutionally infringing on the lawmaking powers of Congress.
  • If the Court agrees with that argument, it could vastly cut back the powers of agencies such as the EPA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Lawyers for the industry groups say that while the EPA had the right to set emission standards under the Clean Air Act, it was under a constitutional obligation to create standards which were closely related to the goals of the law -- but that, instead, the agency went beyond its congressional mandate.
  • The EPA will argue that it is under no obligation to do a cost-benefit analysis before issuing new regulations -- because estimating costs is too uncertain.

Harvard University law professor Laurence H. Tribe, who has filed a brief on behalf of General Electric Company, describes the case as a potential "blockbuster." The Court will hear arguments on November 7.

Source: Christopher H. Schmitt, "Regulators: By Whose Authority?" Business Week, October 16, 2000.


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