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 May 27, 2023

Supreme Court finds that EPA conducted an unlawful shakedown and abused power's granted by the Clean Water Act

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sackett family after they were a target of a shakedown from the Environmental Protection Agency, Breitbart reported. This decision will also limit the power of the EPA to use the Clean Water Act in the future.

In a unanimous decision in Sackett v. EPA case Thursday, the high court ruled in favor of the family after its long ordeal. The saga began for the Sacketts in 2007 when they attempted to build on land they had purchased.

The Idaho couple, who acquired the parcel of land in 2004, was told that they could not begin construction because their property included wetlands that were federally protected. The EPA warned them that they had to relinquish the property and restore it to its natural state or face fines of $40,000 per day.

To add insult to injury, the couple was told that they could not sue over these fines because they weren't considered the "final action" of the agency. However, the Sacketts successfully sued and won over that aspect of the case in 2012.

This week's decision will go further in righting the wrongs against them by protecting other Americans from this sort of overreach. Although the merits of the case were decided unanimously, the question about applying the Clean Water Act was a 5-4 split decision.

"This case concerns a nagging question about the outer reaches of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the principal federal law regulating water pollution in the United States," Justice Samuel Alito said in the majority opinion. "The Act applies to 'the waters of the United States,' but what does that phrase mean?" the justice continued.

"Does the term encompass any backyard that is soggy enough for some minimum period of time? Does it reach mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, or playa lakes? How about ditches, swimming pools, and puddles?"

Alito went on to note that the purpose of the CWA was to prevent "the discharge of any pollutant" into "navigable waters," but it has been expanded. "The CWA is a potent weapon," he warned.

"It imposes what have been described as 'crushing' consequences 'even for inadvertent violations,'" the opinion went on. "Property owners who negligently discharge 'pollutants' into covered waters may face severe criminal penalties including imprisonment."

Rather than sticking close to the original intent of the regulation, the EPA has used it as a power grab. "Within a few years, the agencies had interpreted their jurisdiction over 'the waters of the United States' to cover 270-to-300 million acres of wetlands and virtually any parcel of land containing a channel or conduit . . . through which rainwater or drainage may occasionally or intermittently flow," Alito pointed out.

"More recently, the agencies have engaged in a flurry of rulemaking defining the waters of the United States. In a 2015 rule, they offered a muscular approach that would subject the vast majority of the nation's water features to a case-by-case jurisdictional analysis," the opinion continued.

"Although the rule listed a few examples of 'waters' that were excluded from regulation like puddles and swimming pools, it categorically covered other waters and wetlands, including any within 1,500 feet of interstate or traditional navigable waters," Alito wrote. "And because the CWA can sweep broadly enough to criminalize mundane activities like moving dirt, this unchecked definition of 'the waters of the United States' means that a staggering array of landowners are at risk of criminal prosecution or onerous civil penalties."

Former President Donald Trump understood the problematic power the EPA gained from the CWA and unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the rule in 2019. However, what Trump couldn't accomplish, the courts just have.

Private property rights are vital to the freedom of the American people. The court was right to curtail the power-hungry EPA on this issue that threatened the rights of people like the Sacketts.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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