A Victory Against Obama’s Green Tyranny

Rich Trzupek is a veteran environmental consultant and senior advisor to the Heartland Institute. He is the author of the new book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry (Encounter Books).


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It took five years, but Mike and Chantell Sackett have finally won the right to have their day in court. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court sided with the Idaho couple in their battle with the EPA, saying that the Sacketts were entitled to due process under the Clean Water Act, no matter what the EPA might think.

The case, which became a national symbol of EPA-overreach, centered on the EPA’s claim that the small parcel of lakefront property upon which the Sacketts intended to build a vacation home would disturb a wetland. Under EPA rules, the couple could not commence construction until the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers either issued a wetlands permit or decided that a permit wasn’t needed.

The Sacketts disputed the claim that wetlands existed on their property at all and they did not believe that they should have to go through the long, expensive and arduous EPA permitting process. Instead, they wanted to take the EPA to court without awaiting a permitting decision. The EPA maintained that permit applicants must wait until the agency makes formal decisions on permit applications before anyone can resort to judicial action.

The EPA’s position is essentially that it should be allowed to evaluate all of the evidence and relevant data before anyone questions the agency’s preliminary judgment. On the other side, many permit applicants (like the Sacketts) complain that the process itself amounts to a penalty. By holding up permit decisions for a year or more and by often requiring applicants to develop heaps of expensive data, obtaining even a favorable decision can be enormously expensive. In his opinion, Justice Samuel Alito summed up the frustration that many property owners feel when dealing with wetlands regulation:

“The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the act, and according to the federal government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy,” Alito wrote.

Regulated wetlands are characterized not just by the wetness, but by the type of soil and the sorts of plants growing in the soil. In addition, the wetland must be connected to “waters of the United States” (navigable waterways) in order to be a “jurisdictional wetland” (one over which the EPA and Army Corps have regulatory authority). Using this criteria, overly-conservative and often inexperienced EPA employees sometimes making shocking decisions about qualifies as a jurisdictional wetland.

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  • maturin20

    Louis L'Amour would be proud.

    • Rifleman

      Lol, good one.

  • Fred Dawes

    We need many more victories to free this country and free the world from fools like obama.
    Never forget obama was placed into power not by the people but by the world bankers to take us down a path of total Tyranny.

  • Ken

    One win for the little guy!! Congrats!! But watch out, the eco-loons will be gunning for you!! Those both in and out of the government!!

  • http://apollospaeks.blogtownhall.com/ ApolloSpeaks

    OBAMA'S GREEN ENERGY MACHINE IS RUNNING OUT OF GAS

    Did you know that the 4th greatest president ever, and greatest wartime leader in 500 years, also believes that he's the Christopher Columbus of green energy technologies, saving the world one wind mill at a time from the catastrophe of man made global drowning? The audacity of the man. Though oil makes the world go round it's the obsolete energy of ignorant flat earthers who want a GOP president from the medieval past offering an AFFORDABLE ENERGY ACT. Mock on Mr. President and kick us in the a$$. By November 6th, with fuel costs in the stratosphere, your green clean energy machine will end up like Solyndra and run out of gas.

    Click my name for more on this subject

    • Rick_in_VA

      Obama: A legend in his own mind.

  • Rifleman

    It's interesting that the left will give terrorists that are due a military tribunal, a jury trial, but would deny that to someone 'guilty' of trying to build a home or in some other dispute with a government regulatory agency. It reminds me of their disdain for secret ballots in unionization votes.

    • davarino

      Or totalitarian states like Soviet Russia, Communist China, Cuba, …….

      These agencies have to go. They have gained to much power and are morphing into vampires sucking the freedom out of America.

  • mrbean

    In a nation founded on the pioneer spirit, environmentalists have made “development” an evil word, attacking the man-made as an infringement on pristine nature. They inhibit or prohibit the development of the pipeline, Alaskan oil, offshore drilling, nuclear power—and every other practical form of energy. In the name of “preserving nature,” they undermine our quality of life and make us dependent on our enemies in the Mid East for oil. Housing, commerce, and jobs are sacrificed to spotted owls and snail darters. Medical research is sacrificed to the “rights” of mice. Logging is sacrificed to the “rights” of trees. As a consequence, man is to be prohibited from using nature for his own ends. Since nature supposedly has value and goodness in itself, any human action which changes the environment is necessarily branded as immoral. Environmentalist are the enemies of man.

  • Ghostwriter

    What we need here is balance. While I agree that the EPA has gotten way out of control with it's mandate,we shouldn't let industry run wild either. There should still be wetlands and other natural places for people to see and there should be development of our resources too. I think we can have both. Sadly,the extremists on both sides don't want to hear something like that.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      Have you ever flown across the country and looked out the window?

      We have plenty of undeveloped land.

      • Raymond in DC

        And much of that land, especially out west, is owned by the Federal Government.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

          Why don't we send all the threatened species out there to be eaten by predators as nature intended?

  • http://www.colorcodehex.com/ HexColor

    One has to keep in mind that the obama administration has personal inveestments in solar energy, while they are using OUR money to boost their chances of big returns. It may be a good idea to avoid purchasing anything at all where obama and ilk are cheerleaders.

  • jacob

    As the saying has it, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I'm sure good intentions were
    those behind the creation of the EPA…
    So, in the name of Protection of the Environment, it has become a Frankenstein's monster believing
    it is more powerful than the Constitution itself to the extent that the Supreme Court has seen fit to clip
    their wings and I firnly believe it is time aready to disband it for good…

    But most of the blame falls on Congress for allowing this sad state of affairs to exist,as we have only
    to learn what this dictatorial institution had the audacity to slap these people with….beffiting only of Nazi Germany or the extinct (?) Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics

  • jacob

    MR ADMINISTRATOR :

    WOULD YOU MIND TELLING ME WHAT DID I STATE THAT WHOEVER SIGNED DAVARINO ABOVE
    DID NOT SAY ?????