Environment Legal, Laws, and Regs

Sackett v EPA: Today’s the day

Today’s the day when the second Sackett v EPA case is heard in the Supreme Court. The consequences of today’s imbalanced Supreme Court could be devastating to the quality of the waters in our country.

I’ll be writing about this case after the oral arguments. In the meantime, I’m putting together a page (Sackett v EPA Documents and articles) with links to documents I’ve collected over the years. All of the court documents aren’t fully linked, but the key set of material is the EPA Administrative Record. This set of documents contains the reports and photos that form the background for the EPA case.

The Sacketts contend that they needed no CWA permit because their land was separated from Priest Lake by a road, and therefore, there is no contiguous connection between the wetlands on their land and the lake. The EPA contends that a manmade structure, such as a berm, dike, or in this case, road, does not alter the fact that the wetland does, indeed, have a significant impact on the lake.

These arguments directly relate to the question that this hearing is supposed to address. But the Sackett lawyer, the infamous Pacific Legal Foundation, decided to blow the case up by challenging what constitutes a ‘tributary’ in the Clean Water Act—a challenge that could have disastrous impact on our waters in the country.

The courts should not address the latter challenge—it’s not included in the question related to the case—but as we discovered last year, this Supreme Court plays by a different set of rules now.

You can listen to the oral arguments at this link.

Environment Government Legal, Laws, and Regs

Sackett vs EPA

I received a CD with Administrative Record documents I requested via FOIA from the EPA. These documents were submitted by the EPA based on a request from the Sacketts in the Sackett et al vs. Johnson et al court case, otherwise known as the Sackett vs. the EPA. This case received a very narrow decision in the Supreme Court last year. I’ve retrieved most of the PACER court documents and am planning on posting these this week.

Thankfully, the Administrative Record documents came with a spreadsheet index, which I converted to a basic HTML table (Sacketts vs. the EPA Administrative Record Documents). Much simpler to post online when you don’t have to individually link the large titled PDFs.

An interesting thing about the Administrative Record documents is the photos. I’m not a geologist, but I found the photos of the Sacketts’ lot to be rather convincing that yes, they were filling in a wetlands. In addition, the Sacketts’ neighbors were the ones to file a complaint because, evidently, the work the Sacketts were doing was causing water to back up into the neighbor’s place.

The Sacketts claimed ignorance of the need to see if they required a Clear Water Act permit before filling in their property. I find this less than credible when you consider that the Sacketts run an excavation and construction business. In addition, there’s also the fact that the previous owners were aware the land was designated a wetlands.

Interesting what you can find with a simple FOIA request. Which, by the way, the EPA responded to quickly and efficiently.

I’ll have more on this case at a different web site (since this one is about document access) when I have all the pieces (and I have the extra time). In the mean time, feel free to explore the Admin Record documents, and the court documents later in the week. You can definitely find out more about the case just by searching on “Sackett vs EPA” online.