Sackett v. EPA: Oral Argument On Clean Water Act Shows Some Skepticism On the Court For Property Owners
The Supreme Court returned to the bench on Monday for the start of its new term. The justices did not waste any time in getting down to business, hearing argument in a long-running dispute over an Idaho couple’s efforts to build a home on land that they own – but which the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed a “wetland.” At the end of nearly two hours of argument in Sackett v. EPA, the justices appeared torn between wanting to protect the nation’s waters and the desire to have more clarity for property owners, who can face stiff fines for violating the Clean Water Act.
The case centers on the interpretation of the CWA, which prohibits the discharge of pollutants, including rocks and sands, into “navigable waters.” The CWA defines “navigable waters” as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas”; swamps, bogs, and marshes can all be regarded as “wetlands.”
The plaintiffs in the case, Michael and Chantell Sackett, want to construct a house on an undeveloped lot that is 300 feet from Priest Lake, a large lake near the U.S.-Canada border in the Idaho panhandle. Their legal battle began shortly after they began to prepare the land for construction back in 2007 and received a notice from the EPA to stop work because the property contains wetlands protected by the CWA. That notice led to years of litigation, including a prior trip to the Supreme Court in 2012.
Full Article from Scotusblog HERE.