Thursday, March 22, 2012

U S Supreme Court Rules USEPA Wetlands Compliance Orders Can Be Judicially Reviewed

March 22, 2012, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled against the contention of USEPA that the agency’s wetlands compliance orders are not subject to judicial review. The Court ruled in favor of Priest Lake, Idaho homeowners Mike and Chantell Sackett, who had sought a court review of USEPA orders that the Sacketts remove developments and restore wetlands on property they had purchased, or else pay up to $37,500 per day in fines to the agency. In a unanimous opinion Justice Scalia wrote for the court that “There is no reason to think that the Clean Water Act was uniquely designed to enable the strong-arming of regulated parties into ‘voluntary compliance’ without the opportunity for judicial review – even judicial review of the question whether the regulated party is within the EPA’s jurisdiction.”

This decision will give homeowners, along with other property owners and developers, the right to go to court to challenge EPA determinations that property is all or part protected wetland, and therefore not subject to development. As a result of the ruling, the existence or non-existence of wetlands on a property parcel will now be settled by the courts once and for all, making development possible if the courts rule against EPA, without fear of fines against the developer.
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