Writing at the Hoover Institute’s Defining Ideas journal, New York University law professor Richard Epstein weighs in on the Supreme Court’s upcoming property rights case Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, which deals with a state agency’s demand that a property owner first fund costly and unrelated off-site repairs to state-owned land before it would agree to issue him a permit to commercially develop his own land. Epstein writes:
The situation that is now before the Supreme Court in Koontz shows the folly of the current law.... No longer does the state have to take (and pay just compensation) to satisfy its environmental goals. Rather, the entire mitigation doctrine amounts to nothing more than a form of grand theft larceny by which the state first claims for nothing a state-wide environmental easement, which it will then sell back to the landowner for the (mitigation) price that it regards as acceptable by its own standards. It is, quite literally, no better than allowing the state to confiscate land for nothing, which it then duly sells back to its original owner for a price. Ransom money involves the same dubious strategy.