The inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a report defending the agency’s EPA evenhandedness in handling FOIA requests from friends and foes of its policies [The Hill]. We covered the original charges here and here.
Now this is lovely: the Environmental Protection Agency intends to assert for the first time a power to garnish your wages without a court order to cover fines or other sums it may assess. The new “administrative wage garnishment” power is fueled by a 1996 federal law, the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA), which authorizes more direct means for the seizure of “fines, penalties or fees assessed by federal agencies” and other moneys owed them. The EPA is taking comments through August 1. [Robert Gordon, Daily Signal]
More, a semi-defense of the agency from Brent Fewell: since Congress has pushed these new collection methods on many agencies besides the EPA, the most suitable course for critics would be to press lawmakers to change the debt collection law, the EPA’s underlying statutes, or both.
In a complex decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down in part and upheld in part the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate large emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) [McClatchy/Federalist Society]. A key portion of the holding, writes Jonathan Adler at Volokh, is the finding that the EPA
is not permitted to rewrite the applicable statutory emission thresholds. The latter conclusion, in particular, is an important reaffirmation that agencies are not allowed to rewrite the statutes that they administer. But today’s decision was not a total loss for the EPA, however, as the Court also concluded that it was reasonable for the EPA to interpret the Act to allow for the regulation of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from sources already subject to regulation under the PSD and Title V [large stationary source] program. What this means is that large stationary sources (think big power plants and industrial boilers) that are already regulated as major stationary sources under these programs will have to control GHG emissions when they control other emissions. But sources that only emit large amounts of GHGs will not become subject to EPA’s regulatory authority under these provisions.
From my colleague Andrew Grossman at Cato:
At issue was one of the Obama Administration’s earliest efforts to skirt Congress and achieve its major policy goals unilaterally through aggressive executive action….
The Court, in a lead opinion by Justice Scalia, called it “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous.” EPA, it held, must abide by the statute: “An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.” And if such tailoring is required to avoid a plainly “absurd result” at odds with congressional intentions, then obviously there is obviously something wrong with the agency’s interpretation of the statute. To hold otherwise, the Court recognized, “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers” by allowing the executive to revise Congress’s handiwork. …
The Court’s decision may be a prelude of more to come. Since the Obama Administration issued its first round of greenhouse gas regulations, it has become even more aggressive in wielding executive power so as to circumvent the need to work with Congress on legislation. That includes recent actions on such issues as immigration, welfare reform, and drug enforcement.
Four liberal justices dissented, while Justices Alito and Thomas argued that the Scalia-led plurality were too accommodating of the EPA’s assertion of power.
Some serve essentially as security guards for federal installations and lack much of an outside presence, but others — quite a few others, in fact — are capable of engaging in antics like SWAT-style environmental raids on rural settlements.
EPA-mandated diesel-engine governor shuts down ambulance carrying patient in cardiac arrest to emergency room. [WTTG; Washington, D.C.] The D.C. fire union says emissions-control engine governors, the result of an EPA mandate, have shut down rescue vehicles during missions at least three times since August. Following strenuous protests from rescue squads around the country, EPA last May waived the application of the rules for fire trucks and ambulances, but D.C. is apparently stuck with vehicles acquired before the waiver.
Justice Scalia and the Ninth Circuit, cats and dogs lying down together? The conservative justice was the only dissenter the other day in a 7-1 Supreme Court decision overturning the Ninth Circuit in the consolidated cases of Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. In doing so, the Court upheld (as the Ninth Circuit had not) the entitlement of the Environmental Protection Agency, and by implication other federal agencies, to deference in interpreting the meaning of its own regulations — so-called Auer deference, as distinguished from Chevron deference in the interpretation of Congressionally enacted statutes. Roger Pilon at Cato sorts it out and concludes that there is nothing paradoxical about the line-up: Scalia is distinctively vigilant against the dangers of excessive delegation of legislative power to executive-branch regulators, and deference tends to intensify the effects of such delegation. (Update: omitted link included now)