Shifting Science, Considered Costs, and Static Statutes: The Interpretation of Expansive Environmental Legislation
27 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2006
Date Written: September 2006
Congress often passes expansive legislation, frequently environmental and public health regulatory statutes, where both the definition of those items being regulated and the mandate have significant breadth. How should these provisions be construed? While it is difficult to establish a model which determines whether to broadly or narrowly construe an expansive statutory provision, factors that impact this choice include the existence of express limitations on the mandate, understandings of congressional intent, avoiding regulation that might do more harm than good, the nature of the regulated item, and intervening circumstances such as new understandings in law, policy or science. This Article sets out to establish how, why, and when courts should broadly interpret expansive environmental and public health legislation. Absent express limitations requiring cost-benefit analysis or technological feasibility, courts should broadly construe expansive legislation because courts are equipped to interpret the mandate, the costs of non-regulation are potentially high, and it should be assumed that Congress, in recognition of changed circumstances, was aware of the breadth of the textual language; whereas courts should allow administrative agencies to narrowly or broadly construe statutory provisions with such limitations subject to Chevron deference.
Keywords: interpretation, administrative, Chevron, environment, health
JEL Classification: K29, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation