A Priest Lake, Idaho couple is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court over a land use dispute with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that should have never occurred, according to Members of the Idaho Congressional Delegation. Mike and Chantell Sackett were in Washington, D.C., today as part of a forum convened by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and attended by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, Idaho Senator Jim Risch and Idaho Representative Raúl Labrador.
"This is what happens when an over-zealous federal agency would rather force compliance than give any consideration to private property rights, individual rights, basic decency or common sense," Crapo told the Sacketts. Crapo is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), with oversight of the EPA. He said when Congress wrote the Clean Water Act, it was never intended to authorize actions against citizens such as those that the EPA has engaged in against the Sacketts. The EPA initiated an enforcement action against the Sacketts, paving the way to fine the couple up to $32,500 per day until they complied. In response, the Sacketts sued the EPA for violating their rights to due process under the U.S. Constitution.
"It's stunning to hear this kind of action is happening right here in America," said Risch. "It is critical that Americans understand that federal bureaucrats have gone well beyond their authority to keep our air and water clean. The legislative branch must reclaim its constitutional right to legislate and stop these abuses."
"Listening to the Sackett family tell their story today to Members of Congress was eye-opening," said Labrador. "Hearing their firsthand experience with a bullying federal agency that seems to be above the law is frustrating. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will stand with them, and with the concept of due process enshrined in the Constitution to remind an overreaching bureaucracy that no agency, no matter how big, can run roughshod over the principles of law and order. I am optimistic that the Supreme Court will find that the EPA does not have the power to victimize private citizens as they have with the Sacketts."
The Delegation members say the Sackett case demonstrates why Congress must stay engaged because federal agencies and some members of Congress want to expand federal power over the rights of property owners and individuals. Last Congress, Crapo, Risch and other Senators blocked a bill from consideration that would have drastically expanded the scope of the Clean Water Act and provided legal authority to EPA to engage in the type of overreach seen in the Sackett case.
During the forum, the Sacketts emphasized their case is a violation of their Constitutional rights. "Can EPA take over your land, calling it "wetlands,' without meaningful, direct judicial review?" they said. "We believe property owners have a constitutional right to have their day in court and EPA has to be subject to the rule of law."
Crapo has joined with Risch and other Republican Senators on several separate bills that would curtail further overreach by federal agencies. Similar efforts are underway in the House.