Supreme Court to hear EPA regulation case

Sarah Gardner Jan 9, 2012

Steve Chiotakis:The U.S. Supreme Court will look at the case today of Sackett vs. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The issue started out as a minor wetlands dispute in Idaho. Well many conservatives are hoping a nod in their favor will dilute the EPA’s power.

Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner reports.

Sarah Gardner: Mike and Chantell Sackett are an Idaho couple who started building their dream home back in 2005. That is, until the EPA accused them of building on federally-protected wetlands. The agency issued an “administrative compliance order.” The Sacketts had to stop building and restore the property to its original condition or face fines of over $30,000 a day.

Jim Burling: We think this is a very important case because the Sacketts really exemplify what is wrong with the EPA today.

That’s Jim Burling at the Pacific Legal Foundation. He says this is a classic case of government over-reach. That’s why the Sacketts are getting support from Big Oil and other corporate polluters. They’re pushing the Supreme Court to make it easier to challenge EPA compliance orders.

Patrick Parenteau is a professor at Vermont Law School.

Patrick Parenteau: This case is about whether individuals who receive administrative orders from EPA are entitled to go straight to court and challenge the agency’s authority to even issue the order.

If the Sacketts win this one, it could deprive the EPA of a key enforcement tool. The agency issues nearly 3,000 of these compliance orders every year.

Larry Levine at the Natural Resources Defense Council says conservatives are painting the Sacketts as David and the EPA as Goliath. But in his book:

Larry Levine: Industry and polluters are the Goliath here and EPA is more in the role of the David trying to defend the environment.

Pat Parenteau expects the court’s conservative justices will aim their slingshots at the EPA, but it’ll be a close decision.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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