By John McClaughry
On May 25 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two really remarkable rulings in cases brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation. In Sackett v. EPA, the Court significantly narrowed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act authority.
Now property owners like Mike and Chantell Sackett will no longer be threatened with thousands of dollars in Clean Water Act fines and blocked from building a home on their land. Instead, the EPA will only be able to regulate legitimate wetlands that have “a continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States.”
The decision — authored by Justice Samuel Alito — clears up 50 years of confusion and puts a check on the EPA’s decades-long mission creep by restoring the scope of the Clean Water Act to what Congress intended. Say goodbye to the notorious regulation called WOTUS – Waters of the United States.
The Court followed the Sackett ruling with a decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County [Minnesota]. In that case, all nine justices agreed that when settling tax debt, the government cannot take more equity than a property owner owes in taxes. By seizing and selling 94-year-old Geraldine Tyler’s condo over her $15,000 tax debt, the government violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The Pacific Legal Foundation said “The Tyler decision is a vindication of fundamental property rights. It will change the lives of thousands of Americans across the country.” Thank you, PLF.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.