High Court Sides with Property Owners over EPA

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After a lengthy five-year legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with an Idaho couple in their case against the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2007, the agency ordered Mike and Chantell Sackett to stop building their dream home on Priest Lake located in northernmost portion of the Idaho panhandle.

The EPA claimed the property was a wetland and couldn't be disturbed. The agency threatened the couple with a massive $37,000 a day fine until the land was restored and fenced off.

The agency had argued that allowing property owners quick access to courts to contest orders like the one issued to the Sacketts would compromise the agency's ability to deal with water pollution.

In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court rejected the EPA's argument.

"Compliance orders will remain an effective means of securing prompt voluntary compliance in those many cases where there is no substantial basis to question their validity," Scalia said.

***Read the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion.

In a statement, the Sacketts praised the court for "affirming that we have rights, and that the EPA is not a law unto itself."

Last November, CBN News spoke with the Sacketts and their attorney about the case.

"That government's here to serve us. And they're not. They're coming into people's lives, turning them upside down, and making it to where you can't fight back," Mike Sackett said.

"The EPA, like any federal agency, is not a law unto itself. Even the EPA must abide by the constitutional protections for private property rights that our Founders enshrined," said Damien Schiff, principle attorney of the Pacific Legal Foundation.

"And people like the Sacketts can't have their dream home, and their dreams to build that home, trampled upon by an agency run wild," he added.

In its opinion, the high court also ruled that the EPA cannot threaten fines of more than $30,000 a day without giving owners the ability to challenge its actions.

The EPA issues nearly 3,000 administrative compliance orders a year that call on alleged violators of environmental laws to stop what they're doing and repair the harm they've caused.

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