Victory! Supreme Court Sides With Property Owners Over EPA

Who knew the Constitution applied to EPA?

The Associated Press reports:

The Supreme Court has sided with an Idaho couple in a property rights case, ruling they can go to court to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency order that blocked construction of their new home and threatened fines of more than $30,000 a day.

Wednesday’s decision is a victory for Mike and Chantell Sackett, whose property near a scenic lake has sat undisturbed since the EPA ordered a halt in work in 2007. The agency said part of the property was a wetlands that could not disturbed without a permit.

In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court rejected EPA’s argument that allowing property owners quick access to courts to contest orders like the one issued to the Sacketts would compromise the agency’s ability to deal with water pollution.

“Compliance orders will remain an effective means of securing prompt voluntary compliance in those many cases where there is no substantial basis to question their validity,” Scalia said…

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in a separate opinion that the only issue decided by the court Wednesday is the Sacketts’ ability to contest the EPA finding that their property is subject to the Clean Water Act. The court did not decide larger issues, Ginsburg said.

“On that understanding, I join the court’s opinion,” she said.

In another separate opinion, Justice Samuel Alito called on Congress to clear up confusion over the reach of the Clean Water Act. Alito said that federal regulators could assert authority over any property that is wet for even part of the year, not just rivers and streams.

The court’s opinion “is better than nothing, but only clarification of the reach of the Clean Water Act can rectify the underlying problem,” Alito said…

In a statement, the Sacketts praised the court for “affirming that we have rights, and that the EPA is not a law unto itself.”

Click for the SCOTUS opinion in Sackett v. EPA.

7 thoughts on “Victory! Supreme Court Sides With Property Owners Over EPA”

  1. So it is regulated – so it will be!!!! Apparently some folks in Washington need to be reminded, again, that in our Republican Democracy the government is the servant of the people and the people are sovereign, not unelected faceless bureaucrats.

  2. Perhaps Scalia realized that “allowing property owners quick access to courts to contest orders … would compromise the agency’s ability to deal with water pollution” meant that it prevented the agency from taking unConstitutional actions to render the litigation moot.
    Even the US Soldier, the closest thing we have to indentured servitude in the US, retains the right to question unlawful orders, as set forth in the Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct. Denying citizens the right to petition for redress of grievances in a timely manner is patently unconstitutional (Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment).

  3. Reblogged this on The Grey Enigma and commented:
    My read on this is that, in large measure, the Supreme Court has kicked the can down the road on the real question of the relationship between unilateral bureaucracy actions vs. the individuals right to appeal to a court. In the face of increasing bureaucrat – ization of the country, the latter mater will no doubt rear it’s head soon. GE.

  4. Anyone who has been forced through the administrative process at EPA knows that this is a victory (and we can hope that the Sacketts will be successful in fighting the wetlands finding in court). Too often individuals and companies have complied with an EPA order, despite their disagreement with the facts or law supporting it, because they can be beggared by legal costs in the administrative process before they ever get to an independent court (EPA administrative law judges hear these cases and initial appeals). This will force Justice to get involved, and DOJ has limited resources, so they may head EPA off at the pass on occasion. .

  5. There is an ever bigger underlying issue – illegal taking. I will bet a large steak dinner that if the EPA does get to rule their property a wetland, that no compensation will occur. Perhaps twice the price of the property spent (again) in court might get them 75% of what it was purchased for. Screwed either way.

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