Updates from ASLA


Supreme Court Overturns Chevron Deference: Potential Impacts on Landscape Architecture

Sunira Moses. Facade and fountain of the United States Supreme Court Building. 22 September 2014.

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the long-standing Chevron Doctrine issuing a decision in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo that would now allow judges broad authority to interpret federal agency regulations. The decision has implications for how federal agencies regulate industries and resources, including regulations relevant to landscape architects. Here's a breakdown of the decision and its possible effects: 

What was Chevron Deference? 

Previously, under the Chevron Doctrine, courts would generally defer to agencies and their experts’ reasonable readings of laws when crafting agency rules and regulations.  This precedent had been set in 1984 by the Supreme Court ruling on Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which upheld Regan-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean air rules. 

What Changed? 

The Supreme Court has ruled that deference to federal agencies' expertise is no longer valid. Courts will now give their own independent judgment on the interpretation of ambiguous laws. These judgements would supersede federal agency experts when there are differing views on the law. 

The ruling may also prompt Congress to retroactively clarify ambiguous laws and to proactively write with greater specificity for new legislation. Notably, the ruling acknowledged that Congress often explicitly delegates authority to a federal agency, and in these instances, courts must honor such a legislative decision and defer to the agency interpretation. 

Potential Impacts on Landscape Architecture 

The full impact of this decision is still unfolding, but there are several areas where it could potentially affect landscape architects. The following recent actions have been taken based on agency interpretations and could now become subject to more judicial scrutiny. 

Environmental Protection: Federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish & Wildlife Service have issued rules and regulations that span air quality, wetland management, public lands conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, and more. 

Student Loans: The Department of Education has issued several rules related to student loan repayment or forgiveness since July 2023. This includes the Saving on a Valuable Education program, which lowers monthly student loan payments and offers a shorter path to loan forgiveness. 

Labor: The Department of Labor has issued rules related to overtime eligibility, Davis-Bacon prevailing wages for construction workers, and worker exposure to extreme heat. 

Moving Forward 

A recently released list of upcoming agency rulemakings that address climate change, biodiversity, public health, and more could be jeopardized because of the Loper Bright decision. EPA’s highly anticipated rule on greenhouse gas emissions from existing natural gas power plants is scheduled for this fall, along with a rulemaking to update hazardous air pollutant reporting requirements; and a rule to eliminate lead from drinking water. Also, in late fall, the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce a decision on whether to designate the monarch butterfly as threatened or endangered and rules governing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  

ASLA will continue to monitor these rulemakings and their impact on landscape architects. 

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