Skip to comments.Supreme Court case involving Idaho lake house ignites conservative cause against EPA
Posted on 01/02/2012 5:27:12 PM PST by WilliamIII
PRIEST LAKE, Idaho Chantell and Mike Sacketts dream house, if it is ever built, will have to be situated just so in order to minimize the view of neighboring homes and maximize the vista of pristine water and conifer-covered mountain.
But their roughly half-acre lot in the Idaho Panhandle has proved to be the perfect staging ground for a conservative uproar over the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.
This month, the Supreme Court will review the Sackettss four-year-long effort to build on land that the EPA says contains environmentally sensitive wetlands. A decision in the couples favor could curtail the EPAs authority and mean a fundamental change in the way the agency enforces the Clean Water Act.
Even before the court takes up the case, the couple has become a favored cause for developers, corporations, utilities, libertarians and conservative members of Congress, who condemn what one ally told the court is the EPAs abominable bureaucratic abuse.
It is a familiar spot for the agency, which has come under withering criticism in the political arena. Republican presidential contenders routinely denounce the EPAs actions and regulations as job-killers, while GOP House members have voted to ban the agency from regulating greenhouse gases and tried to cut its enforcement budget.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Sacketts, features their saga on its Web site under the headline Taking a Bully to the Supreme Court.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
The photo I saw was of a relatively flat, grass-covered lot with a few trees. It looked undeveloped to me and any fill would've been of modest proportions simply to level the lot.
There was no resemblance to an undrained "wetland".
....................Making them return their land to the condition it was in before they took their illegal acts, and before they caused repeated floods on adjoining land, is the appropriate remedy......................
The lot was perked; the lot was paid for as deemed buildable based on the developers plat plan and his infrastructure build out; the town approved the lot development plans, and approved the individual housing plan.
So now tell me why the new lot owners should suffer the consequences of buying a buildable lot, that suddenly the EPA says is inferior???
PLF reference bump! ;-)
The first part of my comment was:
"If we're talking in theory and the couple's illegal filling of their property caused continual flooding of yours ...
I thought I had clearly commented on a theoretical ("If we're talking in theory") situation involving a theoretical couple that had, in fact, illegally filled in their property ("and the couple's illegal filling"). The earlier quotes made it clear that one party to whom I was responded thought the property had illegally filled their property, but I didn't even respond to that supposition about this particular pice of property.
A couple could engage in illegal filling after approval of a development plan or housing plan, but I didn't speculate on that, because I was talking in theory about Everyman's Lot on Everyman's Property, next to Illegally Acting Neighbor's Lot on Illegally Acting Neighbor's Property. We could research riparian law in Idaho after approval of development and housing plans, and whether appropriate studies were done, and whether favorable treatment was given, and whether the adjoining neighbor was given adequate notice of any problems appearing in the plans, and whether any earlier drafts of plans were revised.
But that's a different post.
I meant to talk in theory about all such tracts without any reference to plans. That's what I wrote about. I stand by my comments.
I appreciate you adding some details. I'd say that questions about notice, revision of earlier drafts, pressure on government officials, and other issues may be relevant if the case rests on the approval of lot development and housing plans. Collusion among developers, councilmen, development departments, building inspectors, and others to the detriment of honest citizens is not unheard of. In theory.
NOTE: The preceding post is not a blanket, towel, hand towel, washcloth, handkerchief, or wet wipe approval of the EPA's often ridiculous actions.
EPA another present from a republican president. Most of these horrid alphabet departments are given to us by republicans....Carter gave us the department of education, don’t need that one, it was a payoff to the unions for supporting him...Bush gave us homeland security, GHWB gave us americans with disabilities act. Don’tknow who gave us BATF. Its congress’s way of not having to take the heat for “regulations” that are no different than laws they make, but just a different label..
This matter, or at least a very similar case, was decided in Rapanos v US.
The neo-Nazis at EPA keep giving the finger to the court and congress and refuse to carry out the EPA edicts as passed by congress and affirmed by the USSC.
Congress refused to punish the EPA for what it did in the Rapanos incident, including extortion, threats, trespassing and refusing to obey the law. For that alone, Congress should have held hearings and imprisoned these neo-Nazis. If congress doesn’t do its job, it will fall on the states to do the work that needs to be done to remove these Nazi pigs from our soil.
One of the things I liked about Cain was how he talked about getting rid of the EPA.
I googled this case. From what I read, almost 50% of the lot was filled in with rocks and gravel.
Not only is such collusion "not unheard of" -- it is the norm here in NJ.
Result of this corruption-driven overdevelopment:
Massive flooding of older neighborhoods that had never flooded before.
That's probably because the photo you saw was an "after" picture.
As far as I know, no "before" pictures are available.
This case has been around for several years. I first became aware of it two years ago, I believe it was.
At that time, a photo was posted on FR that showed the couple standing on their lot. It appeared to be relatively level and fully grass-covered -- suggesting that there was no significant fill work (unless it was outside the camera's field of view).
I've also viewed an aerial...and the lot was visually indistinguishable from the adjacent lots.
At any rate, there was obviously no expectation of a "wetlands" designation at the time they purchased the lot and were issued a building permit. And, from the photos, one could see why.
I've dealt with the COE on a "wetlands" issue before. And, as far as I'm concerned, the liklihood is that the couple has fallen afoul of some faceless bureaucrat with a bone to pick in the EPA.
I'm rooting for the plaintiffs.
Like I said -- it was grass-covered, with no evidence of any fill.
Check out these photos and maps:
Sackett's empty lot
Sure looks like a lot of gravel to me. Btw, this photo is actually posted by the people who are DEFENDING the Sacketts!
Here's an aerial view:
Bing aerial view
The Sackett's lot is pretty obvious. It's the one that's completely denuded and light in color (probably covered with light gravel).
Cf. this diagram of the Sackett's property (posted by a Spokane newspaper):
cleared area of Sackett property
wetlands map of area surrounding Sackett property
US Fish & Wildlife Service wetlands map
Looking at this photo along with the Fish & Wildlife Service wetlands map posted above, it's pretty obvious to me there are wetlands immediately to the north and west of the Sackett's lot ... which, as you can see, has been completely stripped and probably filled in this picture.
If you read the briefs filed with the courts you will see as a "finding of fact" that the Sacketts filled approximately 0.5 acres of their 0.63 acre lot. That means they filled in almost 80% of the lot.
I agree, and that is exactly what the EPA's compliance order asked them to do.
Even if we had "a functioning justice system," it is absurd to demand that neighboring homeowners sit by and wait for their property to be damaged or destroyed by a party's illegal actions.
And further absurd to demand that the injured party pay big $$$$ to lawyers to sue, after the damage has been done. As well as be forced to wait years and years for a settlement or award that may never be realized.
On the other hand, it is not absurd to seek a stop work order to STOP the damage being done by the illegal alterations to the property. And it is to the benefit of us all that we PREVENT the need for litigation.
I don't see any Fish & Wildlife "wetlands" map.
But we're arguing around the fundamental issue here. Which is:
Should the federal government (and the EPA) have controlling authority over every mud puddle in the country?
Based on my own experience, such rulings can go beyond the absurd. And, if everybody in town thought the lot was buildable and a permit was issued, I would conclude that this was one of those rulings that went beyond the absurd.
What we should all be arguing is that the EPA shouldn't have any friggin' authority to do what they've done to these people.
And I wish them the best in sticking it up the EPA's butt.
Sometime I get lucky when I spew legal analysis. To whose attention do I sent the bill? There's the fee for the legal analysis, and the surcharge for the reasoned legal analysis, and the sur-surcharge for being right.