December 9, 2023

The Supreme Court’s latest ruling on climate change could weaken efforts by federal agencies to rein in the tech industry, which has been largely unregulated for decades as the government has tried to keep pace with the changes brought about by the internet.

In a narrowly detailed 6-3 decision of the EPA, the court ruled Thursday that the EPA does not have broad authority to reduce emissions of power plants that contribute to global warming. The precedent is widely expected to call for a challenge to other rules set by government agencies.

“Each agency will face new hurdles in the wake of this confusing decision,” said Alexandra Givens, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based digital rights nonprofit. “But hopefully the agencies will continue to do their jobs and move forward.”

The Federal Trade Commission, in particular, has been pursuing a robust agenda in consumer protection, data privacy and tech industry competition under a leader appointed by President Joe Biden last year.

Biden’s choices for the five-member Federal Communications Commission were also tracking stronger “network neutrality” protections that would ban Internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and apps that don’t pay for premium service.

Referee instills fear

A former FTC chief technical officer during President Donald Trump’s administration said the ruling is likely to instill some fear in lawyers at the FTC and other federal agencies about how far they can go in setting new rules that affect business.

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