How long would your bank account hold out if an agency of the federal government were fining you $75,000 per day? A couple of hours, maybe — or a few minutes? Not many homeowners could handle that kind of crushing financial blow. Even a Bill Gates, a Warren Buffett, or a George Soros might blanch at such astronomical fines.
But that was the potential cost facing Idaho couple Mike and Chantelle Sackett, who ran into the iron fist of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when they began building their home in 2007 on a two-thirds acre parcel in a residential neighborhood of Priest Lake. Like their neighbors who had already built homes next door, the Sacketts got their permits from the county and began laying gravel and preparing the ground for building. That’s when the EPA came in and, without hearings or notice, declared that the property is “wetlands” and ordered the Sacketts to restore it to the EPA bureaucracy’s satisfaction.
The Sacketts, having good reasons to believe their property is not a wetlands, were determined to contest the EPA order. However, the EPA denied their request for a hearing. They sought judicial relief, but the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the EPA, ruling that the Sacketts had no right to immediate judicial review of the matter. The Ninth Circuit held that the couple would first have to go through the EPA’s years-long wetlands permit process, which would end up costing the property owners many times the value of their land!
Represented by attorneys with the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Sacketts took their case to the Supreme Court of the United States. As The New American reported earlier, in January, the EPA bureaucrats faced an aggressive grilling from Supreme Court justices, who criticized the agency’s “high-handedness” and regulatory overreach.
On March 21, Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the Court’s unanimous opinion, which has been hailed as a historic victory for property owners and a stinging rebuke to federal regulators.
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Justice Antonin Scalia (photo)