April 18, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Sacketts, again

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has mentioned the Sacketts’ case against EPA several times in various speeches.  Mr. Romney uses the Sacketts as an example of a big government agency run amok.  His commentary was recently the target of a Factcheck.org analysis.

Factcheck.org took issue with Mr. Romney’s characterization of the Sacketts’ plight as the result of an Obama administration decision.  As I point out in comments quoted in the story, the Sacketts’ plight is not so much a political tale as it is an excellent example of the pernicious effects of large, unaccountable bureaucracies that wield too much power and too often use that power inappropriately.  Let’s hope that whoever wins in November will make reform of the EPA a top priority.

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Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Chantell and Michael Sackett received a local permit to build a modest three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot in an existing, partially built-out residential subdivision in Priest Lake, Idaho. The home poses no threat to water quality but federal EPA regulators nonetheless declared their property to contain a wetland and demanded they stop all work and restore the lot to its natural condition or pay fines of up to $75,000 per day. When they sued to challenge this order, EPA asserted they had no right to judicial review. The district court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and tossed their lawsuit out of court. The United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed, ruling that failure to allow the lawsuit violated the Sacketts’ constitutional due process rights. They are now litigating their claims in federal district court in Idaho.

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