Washington Report

Advocacy Updates from Washington D.C.

Supreme Court Unanimously Decides in Favor of Property Rights in Sackett v. EPA

March 26, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court handed private property owners a victory with a unanimous decision on March 21 allowing a couple to appeal an EPA ruling that their property contains a wetlands. The ruling is supported by the National Association of REALTORS(R), which along with other organizations submitted a friend of the court brief in the case. NAR argued in its brief that the property owners in this case were being denied due process because the compliance process is time-consuming and the costs are significant--all before the main question of whether the property contains a wetlands is even considered.

The Court ruled that property owners facing an EPA compliance order under the Clean Water Act (CWA) can seek judicial review before being forced to comply. The case, Sackett vs. EPA, involved the Sacketts, a couple in Priest Lake, Idaho, who bought a piece of property in an already developed subdivision, near Priest Lake in Idaho. After they started building their house, they were ordered by EPA to stop construction, out of a concern that the property contained a wetland, even though the property was adjacent to other developed properties. The Sacketts could have been subject to steep fines for not complying with EPA’s request.

This decision will change how EPA enforces the Clean Water Act and will have implications for how EPA uses compliance orders under other environmental statutes.

With this important unanimous decision, Mike and Chantell Sackett can finally get their day in court.

Sackett v. E.P.A., 132 S. Ct. 1367 (U.S. 2012)

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