It started eighteen years ago in 2004, when Mike and Chantell Sackett purchased two-thirds of an acre lot near Priest Lake, Idaho. Priest Lake is a popular vacation and recreation destination located in Idaho’s Panhandle. All the Sacketts wanted to do was build a modest family home, but the Environmental Protection Agency had other plans.
Their lot was in an existing residential subdivision that was all built out. Even though it was on the lake, their land didn’t touch any water. In 2007, they obtained all the local permits to build, but unfortunately, they were slapped with an Administrative Compliance Order (ACO) from the EPA. They were told that they needed a federal permit because they were depositing fill onto their property and that constituted an unlawful discharge of pollutants into the waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
In other words, the EPA, even though there were dozens of homes surrounding their property, said their land was a wetland and filling it without a permit was prohibited. Proceeding meant a $40,000 daily fine. The Sacketts attempted to challenge the ACO ruling in court, but the EPA claimed it wasn’t subject to judicial review. This created the first Sackett lawsuit, eventually winding up at the Supreme Court in 2012.
There, they won a unanimous decision confirming they had a right to challenge the EPA’s ACO (a procedural victory), but all that did was send their case back to the lower federal courts for further adjudication to determine if the EPA indeed has authority to regulate their private property under the CWA.
Although the Sackett’s property contains no stream, river, lake, or similar body of water, the EPA claims their land is a “navigable water” considered “waters of the United States” subject to their regulations.
This is now the subject of their second lawsuit to determine whether the Sacketts need permission from the federal government to build their family home.
Pacific Legal Foundation has been representing the Sacketts all along and on October 3, 2022, Damien Schiff, PLF’s lead attorney on the case, argued the first case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court for the new 2022-2023 term.
According to reports and news articles, the oral argument went well lasting almost two hours!
Let’s all hope this 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Sacketts and against the unauthorized expansion of the Clean Water Act promulgated over the years by the EPA. A decision will more than likely come in 2023.
If the Sacketts win their case, we all will owe them and Pacific Legal Foundation a great deal for their sacrifice and dedication to defending their right, along with millions of other American’s rights, to use private property and reign in the tyrannical power of the federal bureaucrats at the EPA.
(There’s a great press story by PLF you can link to published October 6, 2022, Fighting EPA Overreach at the Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA)
Also, I’d like to use this photo, if possible, to show how ridiculous this situation really is for the Sacketts.