SACKETT V. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Facts:  The Sacketts were owners of a residential lot which contained navigable waters.  In preparation to build a home on their property, the Sacketts filled in part of their lot with dirt and rock.  A few months after the Sacketts had filled part of their lot, they received a compliance order from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The compliance order stated that the Sacketts’ property contained jurisdictional wetlands, although no mention was ever made of wetlands on the Sacketts’ deed or any other document associated with their property.  The order further ordered the Sacketts to “immediately undertake activities to restore the Site in accordance with an EPA-created restoration work plan.”

What the Supreme Court Found:  The compliance order issued by the EPA is considered a final agency action and thus subject to judicial review.  That is, the EPA does not have carte blanche to issue compliance orders leaving the subject no recourse but to appeal within the EPA’s administrative scheme.  Such final orders issued by the EPA are subject to review by the court system.

Justice Scalia:  “…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.”

Justice Alito:  “the position taken in this case by the Federal Government – a position that the Court now squarely rejects – would have put the property rights of ordinary Americans entirely at the mercy of Environmental Protection Agency employees.”

“In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.”

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