American Elephants

Are There Any Limits on How Far the EPA Can Go? by The Elephant's Child

The story of the Sacketts is a startling one, and demonstrates the out-of-control character of the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. The case is

Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Status: U.S. Supreme Court granted petitioners’ certiorari petition of June 28, 2011.  Petitioners’ opening brief on the merits filed September 23, 2011. Respondents’ merits brief due November 23, 2011.

Here is the  summary of the case, from the Pacific Legal Foundation:

Can federal bureaucrats seize control of your hard-earned property – and deny you a meaningful right to appeal the land grab?

This is the compelling question in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – the latest PLF case to be accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Observers on all sides see history in the making – a case that could break new ground in environmental law, and win a broad-impact precedent for property rights. Sackett could have “a sweeping effect,” UC-Davis law professor Richard Frank told NPR.  It has the potential “to bolster the rights of landowners facing costly demands from the federal government,” reported Bloomberg/Business Week magazine.

— In 2005, when they bought a small piece of land in Priest Lake, in the Idaho panhandle, Mike and Chantell Sackett never dreamed they’d be launched on a road to the highest court in the nation, to fight for fundamental principles of due process and property rights.

The Sacketts are small business owners, and they live in a rented home.  Their plan was simply to build a house of their own.

And they did everything right.  Their parcel is in a residential area – a platted subdivision – with sewer and water hookups.  They obtained all the needed permits to begin building.

But when they began laying gravel, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency swooped in without warning.  The Sacketts were told their land is “wetlands.”  They were ordered to return their property to EPA’s liking – on pain of $37,500 per day in fines!

Shocked, the Sacketts thought:  There must be some mistake!  They hired a soil expert and a biologist, who provided a certification that their parcel is not a wetland.

But the  EPA was unmoved.

— Mike and Chantell wanted to challenge the “wetlands” finding in court – but EPA (and the Ninth Circuit) said, No:  They would have to restore their property (at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars), seek a “permit” (costing 12 times the purchase price of the land!), and bring a legal case when the permit was denied.  Or, alternatively, they could violate EPA’s commands, and be hit with ruinous fines.

It’s a little scary when you realize that this could happen to you.  This is why some farmers cut down any trees in their fields — for fear the EPA or will descend with an endangered species order that deprives them of the use of their land.  Goodness, they could declare the whole of the Seattle Area a wetland — between two lakes and the Sound, and with a wet, rainy winter beginning.  The Ninth Circut is the most frequently overruled circut in the country.

5 Comments so far
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It’s a little scary when you realize that this could happen to you.

Exactly why my sympathy is dampened. This has been going on for years– it’s just that the people who were abused were rural.
But let it happen in a way that threatens town folks? THEN having your property stolen is an issue.

Oh, well– here’s hoping that it gets some kind of action.


Comment by Foxfier

Yes, the EPA trying to take an urban lot hasn’t happened yet. And there have been a lot of “wetlands” attaks by the EPA. They have authorization of a kind for “navigable waters,” and are claiming that — I was going to say the merest trickle— but now they seem to be working on dew. Is this part of the left’s drive to put everyone in high-rise cities? I really don’t understand their intent.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

[…] is the piece I wrote last October about the case, which includes the Pacific Legal Foundation brief and their pathway through the […]


Pingback by The Supreme Court Unanimously Scolds the EPA « American Elephants

[…] EPA is an organization of environmental zealots solely interested in their own power. I have been writing about them for years, and I think the agency should be shut down and permanently shuttered. They exist only […]


Pingback by EPA Subjects Human Victims to Lethal Pollutants, Doesn’t Warn of Risks! | American Elephants

[…] only funny until they start coming after you. We’ve reported on Gibson Guitars, and the Sacketts case in Northern Idaho, and rancher Andy Johnson building a stock pond  (above) on his property, but […]


Pingback by The Tyranny of the Administrative State | American Elephants

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