Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules 8-0 for Landowners Fighting Clean Water Act Regulations

SCOTUS issues important property rights victory in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co, Inc.

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Credit: C-SPAN

In an important victory for property rights nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 on Monday that landowners have the right to seek judicial review of federal determinations which say that their properties contain "waters of the United States" subject to stringent regulations under the Clean Water Act.

The case of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc. centered on a peat-mining business that has been prevented from using some of its property because the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the land in question contained federally protected wetlands. The Hawkes Co. disagreed with that determination and set out to challenge it in federal court. But the federal government maintained that judicial review was not an option for landowners at this stage under the Clean Water Act.

In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the federal government's position. "If respondents discharged fill material without a permit, in the mistaken belief that their property did not contain jurisdictional waters, they would expose themselves to civil penalties of up to $37,500 for each day they violated the [Clean Water] Act, to say nothing of potential criminal liability," Roberts observed "Respondents need not assume such risks while waiting for EPA to 'drop the hammer' in order to have their day in court."

All eight justices concurred in Roberts' judgment. However, Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, wrote separately in order to criticize the "ominous reach" of the Clean Water Act itself. The act, Kennedy wrote, "continues to raise troubling questions regarding the Government's power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation." In effect, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito just invited future litigants to file more property rights cases against the Clean Water Act.

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  1. because the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the land in question contained federally protected wetlands

    The respondents’ mothers’ panties are protected wetlands.

    1. I don’t know if respondent is the right term in the context of SCOTUS, but much like the respondents’ mothers, IANAL.

  2. Sometimes I wonder if they just pull their decisions out of a hat. How can this be (nearly) the same court that decided Kelo?

    1. Ya, I pretty much figured dear leader had blackmailed the entire court.

      So for those reptiles that are only fimiliar with intergalactic law, what are the practical implications of this ruling?

      1. Dear leader had a stake in protecting his legacy. Here, not so much.

        1. Yes but this seems like quite a blow to the progtard agenda to give up for vanity’s sake.

    2. Meh, the cases are only similar in that they concern private property rights. This was a pretty egregious and unequivocal violation of due process, while it’s easy to see why judges might give leeway to eminent domain.

      1. Yeah, they didn’t strike down the law, just allowed for some due process. They can still muck with private property, just with a few more hurdles.

        1. Oh no. The government paid lawyers will have to go to government court and ask their friends to side with them. The humanity.

    3. Hat? I think it’s out of their asses.

  3. Look who put on their big boy pants and decided to check a federal agency… and Congress.

  4. Another Obama overreach.

    I wonder if Michelle gives Barry a reacharound while she’s checking his prostrate.

      1. Unless hx meant ‘prostrate’… then well played… well played.

        1. All typos are intentional.

  5. What it sounds like to me is they did nothing for property rights or to halt the ever growing encroachment of government onto private property, but all they did was say that a person has the right to challenge them.

    So the government says, hey, you did something on your own private property and we’ve deemed that a federal crime. You owe us $37,000 for each day you’ve been in violation. So now I have the ability to challenge them in court, and by the time my year long fight is up, I owe $1,350,5000 in fines and I’m out of the $100,000 I spent fighting it.

    MURIKA! LAND OF THE FREE! LIBERTARIAN MOMENT!

    1. That was $13,505,000.

    2. You rule on the cases you get.

      1. It takes a congress and a president who cares to stop the beast. So this means, in the foreseeable future, zero percent change they even get slowed down, let alone stopped.

        1. State legislators are going to be our only hope, whoever wins in November. This is the only silver lining of the shit sandwich we’re getting, that Clinton or Trump would both indelibly taint the office and inspire
          a federalist urge.

          We really are well and truly fucked.

          1. They won’t do it because they’re addicted to the federal teat.

            An EPA officer in every yard! A pervert in every bathroom! Murika the great land of the free!

            1. I can see federal inroads against the Second inspiring a great deal of resistance. So much so that Clinton would be an idiot to try.

              1. I think there would be enough states to invoke a Constitutional Convention, and the resulting revised 2nd amendment would be unwelcome to statists. Mind you, “shall not be infringed” is pretty clear, but they’ve gone out of their way to misconstrue it, but it would still be a rebuke of epic proportions.

              2. Hillary will try, believe me. She’s convinced she’s untouchable. That’s what happens when a person gets away with all this stuff she has for so many years. She reminds me of a 3rd world dictator like Mugabe, she has the same attitude.

                1. Hillary hasn’t been touched in years; even by her own hands.

                  1. I think this is incorrect.

                    Consider Huma …. it explains SO MUCH. Why does Hillary care so little about all the bimbos? Why does Huma care so little about Anthony’s sexting? Easy answer, they are all about each other!

            2. A pervert in every bathroom!

              We’ve already had that for ages. At least when any of us uses the bathroom.

              1. The only reason any of you yokels oppose transgender bathrooms is because bathroom segregation is the only reason you’re not rapists.

                1. You must have forgot about the thought rape.

              2. STEVE SMITH NO MAGICIAN. CAN ONLY BE ONE PLACE AT TIME

      2. “You rule on the cases you get.”

        SCOTUS rules on the cases it chooses.

  6. Two posts in a row that actually had some good news? I’m feeling a little like Admiral Ackbar. “It’s a trap!” They must be getting ready to unleash a huge nutpunch.

    1. Exactly, two nothing burgers and here comes the giant nut punch. Gird your loins with the titanium.

      1. I use tungsten. I prefer the weight.

        1. That prompted me to look up a density chart of metals, and I’m wondering if I got gypped. Our wedding rings are supposed to be tungsten, but they’re pretty light compared to gold or silver rings of similar size and shape. Maybe they alloyed it with something really light. Hm. I dunno.

          1. My ring is tungsten carbide and it’s much more heavy than other rings.

            1. Is it a wedding band? My SIL bought my brother a tungsten ring for their nongagement.

              1. When people say “tungsten” they usually mean tungsten carbide. Used for rings, drill bits, etc.

            2. And pure tungsten should be denser than that.

              1. I do know that tungsten is difficult to work with. It has a high melting point and is prone to shattering. Perhaps they alloyed it with something to make it easier to work with, lightening it in the process. But that’s just a guess.

                1. I’ve had it 6 years and no scratches. I’m happy with it.

                  1. Well, how would it get scratched sitting in a box?

                    1. Keys and coins could scratch it, every time it’s hastily removed when a good looker walks by.

          2. Tungsten should be about the same density as gold. Maybe they’re palladium? That’s been popular for a while.

            1. Got ’em ten years ago from a reputable chain. Said they were tungsten, but they’re fairly light. Weird.

              1. Been meaning to get myself a vial of gallium to play with.

                1. Plutonium or GTFO.

                  Bunch a posers.

                  *shrugs massive growth*

    2. 3rd party doctrine.

  7. And nothing else happened.

  8. civil penalties of up to $37,500 for each day they violated the [Clean Water] Act, to say nothing of potential criminal liability,”

    I’m wondering if this sets any precedent for other federal agencies, or this decision will somehow sit in a vacuum, only pertaining to the Clean Water Act and the EPA.

    It almost sounds like the SCOTUS woke up from it’s 60 year nap and realized that we have regulatory agencies filled to the brim with unelected bureaucrats writing actual legislation with criminal penalties.

    1. You have to wonder, have the beauracracies finally overstepped, and will the courts slap them down hard enough?

      1. The overstep happened years ago and no.

        1. Yeah, it’s not like the EPA started curb stomping people with its bullshit ‘navigable waters’ last weekend.

          1. If a frog can navigate those waters, it’s navigable waters!

          2. Sorry I thought it was clear, I was talking about overstepping enough to piss off the court and getting real, strong decisions as a result.

            1. Sorry I thought it was clear, I was talking about overstepping enough to piss off the court and getting real, strong decisions as a result.

              I felt the decision against the EPA regarding the the couple that was trying to build a cabin might have been the beginning of the end for the EPAs overreach. That was the one where NPR asked if maybe the EPA was acting like a Republican charicature.

              Which I thought was a deliciously funny question. It said a ton about the editorial bent on NPR WRT to how the EPA operates in general.

            2. I was talking about overstepping enough to piss off the court and getting real, strong decisions as a result.

              I just don’t see that happening. Big chunks of the Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act have been routinely ignored for decades, and the courts have never particularly minded.

              Hell, we have agencies that have broken criminal law in their handling of their funds, and nobody has been charged, much less convicted.

              They are completely out of control. The courts will not reign them in.

        2. Well, the courts don’t seem to think so.

    1. Pretty shitty “chief of staff” then.

      Of course, it’s pure lies. I’ll say it again – Nixon was a noxious politician and he had to step away. We’ve come to the point that greasier people are RUNNING for the job, and will likely win.

      …optimism,,, something, something ….trees……something….

    2. I am shocked by all of the ‘I don’t recall’, I wonder where she learned that? She forgot to say ‘what difference does it make’.

  9. It’s there demesne, we’re just lucky they let us resource-depleting shit-makers exist. A flaw they’ll rectify soon enough. Sometimes I fell like a poacher just to breathe.

    1. Modern slavery includes people … who are enslaved in debt bondage and compelled to work in factories or on farms.

      The fuck does this even mean, exactly?

        1. Selling a child into slavery? How can you get any more libertarian than that?

    2. Newsflash! Group dedicated to finding global slavery finds slavery everywhere.

  10. This is actually pretty huge, if I understand it correctly.

    Normally a person has no standing to sue unless they have already incurred damages of some sort, correct?

    This appears like the Court has taken that and stood it on its head, inviting challenges to all kinds of regulation without the plaintiff requiring to show damages first.

    Am I mistaken?

    1. I see it the same way. In this scenario, the label is the punishment which can be challenged in court, not just the fine(s). This would be a major success. The label itself should be considered a punishment.

    2. I don’t know, but it does seem encouraging.

      Maybe since the plaintiff was already subject to the Army Corps of engineers determination they have standing.

    3. Not versed enough on standing to say, but it seems to me that an agency order that would cost you money should be a sufficient showing of damages for standing purposes. It shouldn’t need to be the fine alone that confers standing, but the order itself.

  11. *requiring the plaintiff*

  12. The 4th branch and all.

  13. The 4th branch and all.

  14. I’m a consultant to various developers and they will do almost anything to avoid anything that triggers an Army Corps of Engineers review. Once triggered, it can delay projects for a year+. Some hostile cities will utilize this to try to kill developments by forcing them to build a bridge over a creek (for whatever use) otherwise they’ll vote a project down.

    One of my clients in a city in California has been trying to get a development pass through city council for almost four years now. It’s a small 40+ lot development (down from something like 2x that number due to city demands) on private land that is part of the city’s own development plan. They forced a ACoE review among other bullshit requirements like pulling out a non-applicable 35 year old ordinance. They’re now doing a last ditch effort to try to save the project. If that still gets turned down (which in all likeliness it will), they’re taking the city to court.

    And dipshit Californians wonder why housing is so expensive.

    1. All those good folks are doing is trying to promote equality. Once housing prices are so steep that most people are living on the street, we’ve achieved equality.

  15. RE: Supreme Court Rules 8-0 for Landowners Fighting Clean Water Act Regulations

    In an important victory for property rights nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 on Monday that landowners have the right to seek judicial review of federal determinations which say that their properties contain “waters of the United States” subject to stringent regulations under the Clean Water Act.

    This is a horrible decision.
    Now Big Government bureaucrats must obey the law and follow legal procedures carefully.
    Whatever happened to the concept the government can do anything it wants?
    Since when the evil property owners have rights?
    Don’t these eight SCOTUS justices realize they’re setting back socialism slavery in this country for decades?
    What’s wrong with these people?

  16. God bless the “Gang of 3″…

    1. By Gang of 3 you must be referring to Sotomayor, Kagan and Ginsburg whom I imagine must have been diddling each other and phoned this decision in.

  17. Is the EPA getting fined $37,500 per day for allowing the water to flow out of that mine they breached?

  18. from what i’ve read, this ruling will turn every american community into flint within the next five minutes.

  19. Who says Hillary’s Obama’s heir?

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  25. It goes to show that, no matter what the makeup of the Court, there seems to be some agreement on some important issues, which is heartening.

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