Washington, DC; January 9, 2012: Oral argument was held today at the United States Supreme Court in the Pacific Legal Foundation property rights case of Sackett v. United States Environmental Protection Agency. In this high-profile litigation, PLF seeks to establish that property owners have a right to appeal to court when EPA effectively seizes control of their property by declaring it “wetlands” under the Clean Water Act.
Arguing on behalf of PLF clients Mike and Chantell Sackett was Damien M. Schiff, a PLF Senior Staff Attorney.
In a statement for release after oral argument, Schiff said the following: “If EPA essentially seizes control of your property by labeling it as ‘wetlands,’ do you have a right to appeal to a court of law? EPA says, No. The Ninth Circuit has said, No. Today, on behalf of Idaho property owners Mike and Chantell Sackett, Pacific Legal Foundation urged the Supreme Court to say, Yes. The Sacketts — and all property owners who are hit with EPA attempts to control their property under the Clean Water Act — have a statutory right and a constitutional right to their day in court. EPA must not be considered a law unto itself. Its edicts — in particular, its ‘wetlands’ compliance orders to property owners — must be subject to meaningful judicial review.”
PLF clients Mike and Chantell Sackett, of Priest Lake, Idaho, bought a small parcel in 2005 with the intent to build a three-bedroom family home. The lot is in a residential area, where neighbors have built their own houses. The Sacketts obtained a county permit to build, and started laying gravel. But then they were blindsided by EPA, which came in and claimed the property is “wetlands” — and ordered them to return it to the agency’s liking, on pain of astronomical fines.
The Sacketts wanted to contest the claim that their land is “wetlands” — but the Ninth Circuit ruled that they would first have to go through a years-long “wetlands” permit process, which could cost 12 times the value of their land!
Represented by attorneys with PLF, the Sacketts are asking the Supreme Court: When property owners are hit by an EPA wetlands “compliance order,” do they have a right to meaningful judicial review — or is EPA effectively above the law?
About Pacific Legal Foundation: Donor-supported PLF (www.pacificlegal.org) is the leading watchdog organization that litigates, without charge, for limited government, property rights, individual rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts nationwide. The Sackett case marks the seventh time that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a PLF case for review. Previous high-profile PLF property rights victories at the Supreme Court include Nollan v. California Coastal Commission (1987); Suitum v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (1997); Palazollo v. Rhode Island (2001); and Rapanos v. United States(2006).
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