Supreme Court Ruling Sides With Property Owners
Washington--A recent Supreme Court ruling says that landowners are entitled to a day in court. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court ruled that property owners are entitled to their day in court when the Environmental Protection Agency asserts jurisdiction over their land.
In Sackett v. EPA, the EPA told Mike and Chantell Sackett of Priest Lake they had to stop building their new home because it was on wetlands. When the couple asked for a hearing, their request was denied.
Sackett, 45, says because some of the land got “wet” in the spring it was classified as wetlands. “We wanted our day in court to just to say, ‘This is not a wetland,’ ” he said. Federal District Court turned the couple away, saying they could not make that argument until the EPA asked a federal judge to enforce the order leaving the Sacketts in limbo. Restoring the property as the EPA demanded didn't make sense to them. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, they say, and if they ultimately won the case they’d have to clear the land a second time. But defying the order potentially meant racking up $32,500 in fines each day—and perhaps criminal liability if they continued with construction—while they waited for the EPA to decide whether to pursue the case.
“We didn’t get the clarity in terms of where EPA can and can’t regulate, but we forced the agency into a position where their decisions are going to get more scrutiny and that’s good,” said Don Parrish, an AFBF regulatory specialist. “It’s going to be more scrutiny by members of Congress and more scrutiny by the courts. However, we still lack the clarity that I think our landowners want,” he said.
Farm Bureau filed briefs in the case because so many of its members are landowners who could face the same situation as the Sacketts. EPA claimed the Sacketts were violating the Clean Water Act, but according to Parrish the agency has pushed its jurisdiction way beyond what Congress intended when it enacted regulatory reforms.AFBF newsline