Property Rights

Property Rights, the Clean Water Act, and the Supreme Court


Business Week reports on a major property rights case brought by the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation that the Supreme Court will be hearing this term:

When Mike and Chantell Sackett paid $23,000 for a lot near the banks of Priest Lake in northern Idaho in 2005, they thought they were buying the site for a picturesque new home. They got a lot more: a long feud with the Environmental Protection Agency and now a Supreme Court case that could bolster the rights of landowners facing costly demands from the federal government.

Four years ago the Sacketts were filling in their lot with dirt and rock, preparing to build a simple three-bedroom home in a neighborhood where other houses have stood for years. Then three federal officials showed up and demanded they stop construction. The agency claimed the .63-acre lot was a wetland, protected under the Clean Water Act….

The Sacketts instead tried to get a hearing in federal court…. Two lower courts turned the couple away, saying they could not make that argument until the EPA asked a federal judge to enforce the order. That left the Sacketts in limbo. Restoring the property as the EPA demanded made no sense to them. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, they say, and if they ultimately won the case they'd have to clear the land a second time. But defying the order potentially meant racking up $32,500 in fines each day—and perhaps criminal liability if they continued with construction—while they waited for the EPA to decide whether to pursue the case. "It's an unenviable choice," says Damien M. Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento-based property rights group that is representing the couple for free. "It's really almost no choice at all."

Read the whole article here.

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  1. $32,500 in fines each day


    1. $33,000 would have been excessive, and $32,000 would have been letting them off too easy.

    2. Not to defend the state but…Do known .63 acre buildable Priest Lake lots go for way more than $23k because they aren’t wetlands?

      The Sacketts say they were stunned. The owners of an excavation company, they had secured all the necessary local permits. And Chantell Sackett says that before work began, she drove two hours to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to consult with an Army Corps of Engineers official. She says the official told her orally, though not in writing, that she didn’t need a federal permit.

      I’m not feeling too sympathetic.Their business indicates they are likely fully aware of the process. That they went to the Corps and did not receive a permit suggests they knew exactly what they were doing and hoped to “get away with it”.

      1. Interesting.
        IJ vetts their plaintiffs pretty thoroughly, not sure about PLF.

      2. A small chunk of useless swamp in northern Idaho you aren’t allowed to develop for $23k? Seems steep.

        I’m betting the price simply had the uncertainty of permits factored in, just like all undeveloped lots. Even in San Diego, a lot without water or septic is far far cheaper than one with. No wetlands in the desert. Perhaps they were hoping to cash in on the uncertainty and develop then resell, and got burned, but that’s not the same as knowing damn well something is too good to be true.

        1. As I quoted: they are in the construction sector that is fully aware of wetlands compliance. She went to the Corps and left w/o a permit. $23k in an existing lakefront neighborhood seems cheap.

          There are plenty of people who get screwed over by environmental and zoning regulations. Spec-house developers who buy and fill a known unbuildable lot aren’t real high on my list of victims.

          1. “$23k in an existing lakefront neighborhood seems cheap.”

            Of course it seems cheap. It is cheap. Because its undeveloped. Period. Many banks won’t even give a loan for undeveloped land and those that do require huge down payments, like 50%. Imagine what that alone does to prices. And why are banks so squeamish? the uncertainty of it.

            If what you say is true and the price reflects the uselessness already, then these guys don’t need your sympathy either way. They can just turn around and resell it, rather than fighting city hall for six years and counting with zero progress. Do you seriously believe they can get 23k for it now?

          2. SIV, having lived in North Idaho, and in a superfund site, no less; the EPA seems to enforce rules in an arbitrary way. I know, at least in an anecdotal sense, that the EPA does not enforce the rules the same for everyone. This happens a lot in North Idaho. I know the contractors working for the EPA used lake water from Priest Lake (and surrounding rivers and lakes) to water the the lawns the government forcibly replaced.

            It was fairly common knowledge, at least for the local population (it was a small population area, everybody know everybody’s business) that front yards tended to get treated more than backyards. If a property had a fence, it was less likely to be re-sodded, and if it was a rental property, it was more likely to be re-sodded. That is just what was noticed by the locals. Check out the Shoshone news press for more information on it, there are a buttload of complaints about the EPA there, and more than a few useless articles with a positive slant on the EPA as well.

            I do have more that a few horror stories about dealing with the EPA, and not only from having to deal with them. You would not believe what some of the people that worked for them have to say. Granted they are drunk assholes, but they are drunk assholes I know and trust. Hell, look up the Galena, Sunshine, and Lucky Friday mines, and you will see that not all mining companies were treated the same, let alone the peasants that lived and worked in the area. Smelterville is prime example, the town got better treatment because a Walmart moved in. (Walmart, the best place to pick up tweakers in the Silver Valley when the bars are closed) I am not saying the “corporations” get better treatment, some of the mining companies got hosed, while others did not; all of them being corporations…it just seems like random law enforcement. It would be one thing if the EPA enforced the rules the same way for everybody, but I never saw that…either a fence that is a half inch thick is enough protection to have carcinogens, or the EPA feels sod is heavy and should not be lifted over fences.

          3. $23k in an existing lakefront neighborhood seems cheap.

            The Sacketts instead tried to get a hearing in federal court, seeking a declaration that their property wasn’t a protected wetland. The plot is not connected either to the lake or a nearby creek …

            A lakefront neighborhood isn’t the same as a lakefront property. Around here (Tampa Bay area) a lakefront property can go for more than twice the price of the property across the street.

      3. my old man lives on Lake Michigan. Back in the 70s, home-builders would just plow over the dunes and build on top of them.

        Now it is near impossible to do the same. The lot to the south of my dad was recently sold. The new owner decided to just clear the dune of vegetation, put in concrete blocks to support the house… needless to say, he did this w/o EPA permission, hoping to getaway with bypassing the laws. Well, it’s a small county and people got to talking. Now the new owner has just a foundation and a legal battle.

  2. I told you assholes I’d be back.

    1. I finally get it.

      Nice one, dickless.

    2. Oh wow….
      Took me a second. Good play.

  3. No matter what tortured reasoning is required to justify abusing this family’s 5th, 6th and 7th Amendment rights, the SCOTUS will find a way to supply it.

    Nothing – NOTHING – can be allowed to stop the advance of the regulatory state.

    1. Come on, this is pretty damn egregious. I’m actually leaning towards hopeful on this case.

    2. Nothing – NOTHING – can be allowed to stop the advance of the regulatory state.

      That’s what the Indians on the Trail of Tears found out.

      Privation Property land “title” is a big-government en”title”ment program.

      Get used to big government if you like your privation property, which is nothing but regulation to kill Non-State sociopolitical typology lifeways.

      1. Shouldn’t you be out doing all those dirty dirty things you and your “band of ‘brothers'” like doing when you’re out gamboling away from the prying eyes of the AGRICULTURAL CITY STATe?!

        1. Officer, am I free to gambol across plain and forest?


          Industrial City-Statism is totalitarian in it’s control of nearly every square meter of fertile Land on Mother Earth’s surface.

          Nearly the whole planet is a City-STATIST prison; the map is closed.

          At least for now. Until the agricultural City-Statists get their just deserts. It’s just natural consequences of utter stupidity. Ask the Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, etc.

          Then the map will open, and you better know how to, fish.

          1. Until the agricultural City-Statists get their just deserts

            Well get back to me when it happens…..

  4. “Two lower courts turned the couple away, saying they could not make that argument until the EPA asked a federal judge to enforce the order.”

    You have to comply with an order from the EPA because you cannot argue in court against that prder because the EPA has not asked for that order to be enforced. My mind rebels against the idea that our courts and regulatory agencies being that ridiculously byzantine.

    How do the liberals argue that we are “underregulated” as a country again?

    1. You have to comply with an order from the EPA because you cannot argue in court against that prder because the EPA has not asked for that order to be enforced.

      Right, but in the meantime, the fines are accruing at a rate of $33K/day, so all the EPA has to do is wait them out until the pressure forces them to cave in without ever getting a court hearing. Boy, that’s some due process.

      1. That’s how it was with Infinity Broadcasting and the FCC fines over the Howard Stern Show. Well, that plus the fact that the FCC had say over mergers! So after waiting it out a while and accruing unpaid fines, they wound up settling without ever getting to court.

  5. I recall a similar story from a few years ago, different state and homeowner. EPA had something called the “casual duck rule” concerning wetlands. Their logic was something along the lines that if a passing duck might want to use your “wetland”, you the landowner couldn’t fill it in.

    Tyrants at the EPA, sheesh.

    1. Actually, it was the “glancing goose” rule, but the idea is the same.

    2. Ducks have no property rights. Fuck ducks.

      1. Homo sapiens have no Privation Property enTITLEment rights. Fuck homos.

    3. Are most ducks casual, or is that formal plumage? It’s fancy, but I can’t tell.

  6. ‘”It’s a problem for the EPA that the Sacketts “feel like the mom and pop who are getting the heavy hand of government brought down on them,” says Catholic University law professor Amanda Cohen Leiter, who sides with the agency. “I can imagine the court being sympathetic to these particular plaintiffs and issuing ? an overbroad ruling as a result.”‘

    Shorter Leiter: It would be better for public relations to have a test case involving a large corporation, although of course if EPA won that case it would hurt the rights of small property owners. But at least with a corporate plaintiff, the case could be spun as Big Corporations trying to Rape the Land.

  7. All you Fibertarians crowing about how the Indians on the Trail of Tears deserved it….remember…

    The agricultural city-State is both externally invasive and internally repressive.

    Please make a note of it.

    1. The trail of tears – before that tragedy, the Cherokees were developing a modern civilization and were getting to the same level of development as their white neighbors. Were they getting their just deserts for being too civilized?

      1. the Cherokees were developing a modern civilization

        Do you just pull that shit out of your ass without wiping?

        Do you even know what “civilization” means?

        1. Settlements of 5000+
        2. Concentration of Wealth
        3. Division of Labor
        4. State level political organization
        5. Agricultural Production

        Civilization isn’t really “development” anyway. Rather, a “devolution.”

        But the Cherokee did develop a great society.

        The great non sequitur committed by defenders of [Civilization,] is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of [Civilization.] ? Murray N. Rothbard

        If only Rothbard had a decent freshman college education and knew that “State” = agricultural City-State (“Civilization.”)

      2. “The trail of tears…”
        Trolls are not killed by feeding them. Even morsels.

        1. wet tailed sevo pissed in his Alpo bowl

          if you can’t debate WI, that’s fine, you’re a poodle

          quit bringing foo foo trimmed poodle fur to a wolf fight

          wolf has bigger cranium

          go eat your sevoALPO if you ain’t got the wild intellect of wild, evolved primates

          Wolves & Dogs
          by Jason Godesky | 13 November 2006

  8. Libertarian Malthusianism:

    (1) we have too many philosophically undesirable people in the world.

    (2) We’ll just withdraw the energy supplies (Galt’s motor, Ellis Wyatt’s shale oil, Ken Dannager’s coal) that sustain them.

    (3) We’ll watch the resulting die off from Primitivist Galt’s Gulch.

    (4) We will restore Earth to its Objectivist carrying capacity.

    1. Tell you what White Smithers…if you’re right I owe you a coke.

      1. Who else wanted to “restart civilization” at “Year Zero?”

        Ayn “Khmer Rouge” Rand? LOL

  9. Our Admin in Server,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your web-page come,
    your code be done,
    on client-side as it is on Server-side.
    Give us this day our daily comments,
    and forgive us our rants,
    as we also have forgiven our ranters.
    And lead us not into responding,
    but deliver us from troll.

    1. Lost on fight with a highly evolved wild wolf mind on evolutionary biology.

      Lost on everything else.

      Praying to God.


      1. I know sevo, etal, have blocked me via their ignore-ance software. I like that.

        Give not that which is holy unto the domesticated poodles, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

        ~Magic HayZeus
        Chapter 3, Verse 41
        The Jefferson Bible

    2. Trolls, starvation and all that.

      1. sweet jesus, sevo, I never knew I had a shadow, until you. And it’s way past dusk.

        Lookin’ for some bundling?

        1. C’mon big fella gambol with me. I’ll show you my nudes of Stephen Jay Gould.

      2. Sorry Sevo. Squanto came along just as White Indian was about to starve and taught him that if you reply to your own idiotic comment about agriculture with three other comments with fishy handles then your threads will grow without bound.

  10. What’s the problem here, you libertarian nutcases? There is nothing in the US Constitution or any state Constitution that prohibits the government from fining someone without due process.

    Nothing at all, move on.

    1. They aren’t nuts; just a pack of forked tongue devils. Worse liars than Leninists.

      Lying Propertarians gonna lie.

      gotta get more stuff, ya know, whatever it takes, sympathy calls included

      (they haven’t completely devolved from highly-evolved egalitarian homo sapien band animals)

      1. “they haven’t completely devolved from highly-evolved egalitarian homo sapien band animals”

        What a great name for a band.

    2. I hope you are joking. The EPA is violating the Sackett’s Forth, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendment rights.

      Eight Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

      $32k a day sounds a bit excessive to me.

  11. Wasn’t DC a wetland?

    1. Malarial swamp…Tapioca Monkey and his band of MERRY GAMBOLERS kicklined through it once.

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