The EPA's Property Wrongs in America

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
02/22/2012
       
The EPA's Property Wrongs in America

Imagine you paid thousands of dollars for a vacant lot where you wanted to build your dream house. The lot is 500 feet from a rural lake, with only a couple of houses between the lot and the lake, with a partial view of the lake. You obtained all the appropriate permits from the county and state, and then — just days after you laid some gravel — the federal government came in and told you that you couldn't build on the land.

 

Imagine you paid thousands of dollars for a vacant lot where you wanted to build your dream house. The lot is 500 feet from a rural lake, with only a couple of houses between the lot and the lake, with a partial view of the lake. You obtained all the appropriate permits from the county and state, and then — just days after you laid some gravel — the federal government came in and told you that you couldn't build on the land.

They then told you that you were subject to a fine of $32,500 per day until you ripped the gravel up and planted the lot with trees and shrubs. And what if the federal government's plan for restoration of the "wetlands" would cost some $27,000, a bit more than what you paid for the vacant lot.
 
You'd probably be pretty mad, and you'd want to sue in court.
 
And that's just what Mike and Chantell Sackett (pictured) thought they'd do when the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency said that their .61 acre lot — which already had a municipal sewer hook-up — was suddenly federally protected wetlands, allegedly connected to interstate navigable waters of the United States.
 
But the EPA said the Feds didn't have to explain their rationale to the Sacketts, and that the Sacketts didn't even merit a day in court to defend the property they'd purchased. The Sacketts couldn't argue that the property wasn't wetlands, as the EPA claimed, or that these wetlands and the lake itself had no connection to navigable waters, as "navigable waters of the United States" means you can conduct commercial trade on the water from state to state.  Why didn't they merit their day in court? Because the EPA said so — saying they aren't entitled.

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