Jim spoke about this March 21 decision of the United States Supreme Court on his show today, and I thought you might like to read it.
Here are the facts:
The Sacketts… own a residential lot in Bonner County, Idaho. Their property lies just north of Priest Lake, but is separated from the lake by several lots containing permanent structures. In preparation for constructing a house,the Sacketts filled in part of their lot with dirt and rock. Some months later, they received from the EPA a compliance order. The order contained a number of “Findings and Conclusions,” …
On the basis of these findings and conclusions, the order directs the Sacketts, among other things, “immediately[to] undertake activities to restore the Site in accordancewith [an EPA-created] Restoration Work Plan” and to “provide and/or obtain access to the Site . . . [and] access to all records and documentation related to the conditions at the Site . . . to EPA employees and/or their designated representatives.” [at pages 5 and 6 of the PDF version]
The EPA added that they would be fined some $37,500 per day if they failed to comply.
The Sacketts tried to appeal the EPA’s “wetlands” finding, as there were no “wetlands” on the property but the district court and the circuit court of appeals threw the case out on the grounds that the Sacketts could not do so until the EPA actually took action to enforce the compliance order, which the EPA had not done.
So, there they sat. They could not proceed with construction, but they could not challenge the EPA’s findings until, if ever, the EPA tried to enforce the findings.
Here is what Justice Alito said during oral arguments before the Supreme Court:
If you related the facts of this case as they come to us to an ordinary homeowner, don’t you think most ordinary homeowners would say this kind of thing can’t happen in the United States?
Thanks to the Supreme Court, that kind of thing can no longer happen in the United States. The case was sent back to the trial court so that the Sacketts can now at least receive a judicial determination about the validity of the EPA’s findings, and, perhaps complete construction of a home they started to build some 5 years ago.