Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

The Clean Air Act (the Act) required states that had not yet achieved national air quality standards to establish a permit program regulating new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution, such as manufacturing plants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a regulation under the Act that allows states to treat all pollution-emitting devices in the same industrial grouping as though they were a single “bubble”. Using this bubble provision, plants may install or modify one piece of equipment without needing a permit if the alteration does not increase the total emissions of the plant. Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, challenged the bubble provision as contrary to the Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit set aside the EPA regulation as inappropriate for a program enacted to improve air quality.


  1. Does the Clean Air Act permit the EPA to define the term "stationary source" to mean whole industrial plants only, which allows plants to build or modify units within plants without the permit required under the Act?


  1. Yes. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for a unanimous court, reversed. The Supreme Court held that the bubble regulation was a reasonable interpretation of the term “stationary source” in the Clean Air Act. Congress did not have a specific intention for the interpretation of that term, and the EPA’s regulation was a reasonable policy choice. The regulation also provided reasonable accommodations for the many competing interests affected by the Act. Justices Thurgood Marshall, William H. Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O’Connor did not participate.

BriefCase Should The Chevron Doctrine Stand?

Should The Chevron Doctrine Stand?

Chevron v. NRDC (1984) and subsequent precedents held that courts should defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes. This judicial deference to administrative agencies, often called Chevron Deference has been a topic of great debate. Two experts, Mark Chenoweth and Ronald Levin, took on this debate via a variety of mediums -blogs, videos, etc. while additional experts chimed in with Amicus Briefs, culminating in an audience vote on which side convinced them.