June 28, 2012 Articles

Sackett at the Supreme Court: A Win for Agency-Regulated Entities

The EPA loses a battle on enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act.

By J. Elizabeth Poole – June 28, 2012

On March 21, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that private land owners Michael and Chantell Sackett could bring an action challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administrative compliance order under section 309 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The EPA issued a compliance order to the Sacketts, who had filled in parts of their land in Bonner County, Idaho, with dirt and rock in preparation for building. The EPA's order first found that the Sacketts’ property contained wetlands—the land was adjacent to Priest Lake, a “navigable water” and “water[] of the United States.” It further alleged that the Sacketts’ filling of their land was the “discharge of pollutants” from a “point source” into “waters of the United States” without a permit, in violation of the CWA. The order required the Sacketts’ to restore their land to its previous state or face penalties of up to $75,000 per day.

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