November 22, 2011

PLF fights the EPA to protect a couple’s dream

By PLF fights the EPA to protect a couple’s dream

Mike and Chantell Sackett are being treated as criminals by EPA regulators who contend their vacant lot in northern Idaho is a “jurisdictional wetland,” and the gravel fill they placed on the lot to prepare for construction of a new home is a violation of the Clean Water Act. There’s no standing water on the property, or anything that resembles a wetland. Given no choice by the EPA or lower courts to directly appeal the wetland determination, the Sacketts, represented by PLF attorneys, are fighting back. On January 9, 2012, their lawsuit will be heard in the United States Supreme Court.

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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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