Victory For Business and Individual Rights Over Environmental Protection Agency

March 21, 2012

A federal court issued s stunning rebuke to the Environmental Protection agency, ruling that it cannot enforce penalties its victims, err, those who have been cited are fighting their case in court.

The EPA had tried to use the threat of draconian fines to force small businesses and individuals into compliance rather than to pursue their due process rights. The National Federation of Independent Business press release, placed below, explains:

www.NFIB.com
For Immediate Release
Contact: Cynthia Magnuson 202-314-2036 or Cynthia.Magnuson@NFIB.org

Washington, D.C., March 21, 2012 – Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center, today lauded the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Sackett v. EPA, to uphold landowner rights.

“Property rights are of enormous import to the hundreds of thousands of small-business owners who rely on their property for the success of their business,” said Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s small-business legal center. “In ruling today that individuals can challenge the EPA in court before being penalized or forced into compliance, the justices have assured landowners that their constitutional right to seek judicial review of government orders is inalienable. The extraordinary costs, administrative burdens and other punitive measures that can cripple small businesses, are no longer an inevitability for the men and women of Main Street. This is a tremendous victory for the small-business community, and NFIB is thrilled to have been a part of this case.”

NFIB filed an amicus in support of the petitioners, two landowners who were ordered by the EPA to stop construction on their property because the agency determined it was a wetland. Chanttel and Mike Sackett were in the process of building their home on an undeveloped lot they purchased in 2005. After seeking necessary state and local permits, they filled a portion of the property with dirt and rock in preparation for construction. However, after construction commenced, the EPA issued a compliance order, alleging that the property is a wetland subject to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The couple was ordered to return their property to its original condition or face potential penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of the order. The EPA denied their request to challenge the finding that their property is subject to the CWA, at which point the Sacketts sought relief in federal court.

NFIB argued that its membership, which includes many ranchers, farmers and homebuilders, would be adversely affected if judicial review were delayed until either the landowner has been denied a permit or is subject to an EPA enforcement action. Landowners are left with only two available options – spending substantial amounts of money on permit applications, or inviting enforcement actions which could result in costly civil and even criminal penalties. Both options are financially untenable for a small-business owner and would adversely affect the business’ ability to operate or expand.

NFIB is the nation’s leading small-business advocacy organization, representing 350,000 small businesses around the country.

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