The U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-3, ruled on 6/30/22 that the regulatory agencies of the Federal Government could not unilaterally expand their powers without specific authorization from Congress.  The case, known as West Virginia versus the EPA, will have a strong bearing on future efforts by regulatory agencies to overreach from their congressional charters.  This could have a major impact on planned legislation related to climate change.

This ruling can be considered a significant affirmation of the principles of federalism and individual and state sovereignty.  There has been a long and persistent drift in the Federal Government toward an administrative state run by unelected bureaucrats.  The alphabet soup of Federal agencies and departments have continually added rules and regulations that impose upon the freedoms and property rights of citizens.  This long-running power grab via undemocratic governance is a clear affront to the American concept of a Constitutional Republic.

According to Amy Howe in the article linked below, “(Chief Justice) Roberts wrote that the EPA’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases by making industry-wide changes violated the ‘major-questions’ doctrine – the idea that if Congress wants to give an administrative agency the power to make ‘decisions of vast economic and political significance’, it must say so clearly.”

Also, according to Howe, “Justice Neil Gorsuch emphasized that the dispute before the court involved ‘basic questions about self-government, equality, fair notice, federalism, and the separation of powers.’”

This was a vitally refreshing decision by the Supreme Court.  Much of the vast machinery of the Federal Government, which intrudes itself upon almost every aspect of our daily lives, is run by anonymous bureaucrats who are not accountable to the American people.  The very essence of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent such accumulation of power in a centralized government, most especially by faceless technocrats who were never elected by the people.

The foundational principle of Subsidiary in the American philosophy of governance expresses the desire of the people to keep power as close as possible to each sovereign individual.  A key element of this principle is that if authority must be delegated to the government, it must be delegated through the Constitution or by the elected representatives of the people.

The West Virginia versus the EPA ruling is a powerful affirmation of these basic principles.

Supreme Court curtails EPA’s authority to fight climate change