October 11, 2017

Justices asked to ensure the EPA’s victims their day in court

By Justices asked to ensure the EPA’s victims their day in court

The Supreme Court was urged today not to allow the EPA to place itself above the law by arbitrarily restricting judicial review of its regulations.

The justices heard the case of National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Defense, which targets the EPA’s attempt to block lawsuits over its controversial “Waters of the United States” rule – a sweeping edict that would unlawfully expand the Clean Water Act to impose federal control over millions of landowners across the country.

Under the statute’s terms, people who are harmed by the WOTUS regulation, or other EPA enactments on the scope of the Clean Water Act, are supposed to able to sue in any federal district court within six years of the rule’s issuance. But the EPA is trying to require that such lawsuits are only filed in federal courts of appeal. Landowners would have just 120 days to file their challenges and all cases would be concentrated in a single appellate court.

M. Reed Hopper, a senior attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, who represents farmers, ranchers, and other landowners from across the country in the case, had this to say:

“The unelected regulators of the EPA are trying to shield themselves from accountability by limiting average Americans’ right to sue. It was encouraging to hear forceful arguments today against the agency’s attempt to twist the law and undermine access to justice. The Supreme Court justices were sympathetic to this argument and had very few questions for our colleagues arguing against the government’s position. 

The justices saved their toughest questions for the government attorney, who was hard put to defend the EPA’s narrow interpretation of the law. The justices clearly understood that Americans who are harmed by overzealous bureaucrats must have full freedom to seek the protection of the judiciary. The EPA must not be allowed to rewrite the law and rob the agency’s victims of their day in court.” 

More information on the case can be found at: pacificlegal.org/WOTUSvenue.

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Waters of the United States

In 2015 PLF challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to stretch federal control to nearly every pond, ditch, and puddle in the nation as nothing more than an outrageous—and illegal—power grab under cover of the Clean Water Act. And under the Act, people who are harmed by such rules have six years to sue in federal district court. That is, until the EPA rewrote the rule, trying to prevent legal action by giving property owners just 120 days to sue, and then only in federal appellate courts. On January 22, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the EPA’s power play and unanimously ruled for PLF and property rights. The High Court agreed with PLF that the EPA cannot shelter its “waters of the United States” rule from judicial review by arbitrarily limiting where victims can sue.

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