President Obama’s EPA has long sought to use the Clean Water Act, originally conceived forty years ago to prevent water pollution, to empower the federal government to directly control any land it designates as “wetlands” – with the owner of the land having no recourse to challenge the finding. Under such a rule the government could designate any land anywhere in the U.S. as “wetlands”, thus requiring the owner of the land to obtain special permits to do anything with that land. Who determines whether these special permits are granted to the owner? Why the federal government, of course.
In a perfect world where federal authority is always operating in the best interests of the nation and of its citizens, it wouldn’t be a problem – government would always be sensible, never overreach its authority, and certainly not use the regulation to punish political enemies for reasons having nothing to do with actual water pollution. But as the Washington Free Beacon reports (below), all eight justices of the Supreme Court have just ruled that the EPA cannot deny citizens the right to challenge a wetlands designation in court. Courts, of course, are a separate branch of government and can’t be coerced by a federal agency. Obama didn’t like that.
This separation is an indispensible precept in our country’s governing model to minimize the possibility of tyrannical intimidation. It’s the exact same concept as a search warrant: police (executive branch) cannot simply search your house because they believe there’s a compelling reason to. They have to submit their argument for the warrant to a judge (judicial branch) who will make his determination based on its merits. If the judge agrees the police’s case is solid and accords with the law he’ll issue the warrant on his authority, otherwise he will not. In either case the police are not able to apply pressure on the court to reach a favorable decision.
That Obama’s EPA was seeking to deny landowners this basic right to due process of law is highly disturbing, though not at all surprising. By now we’ve pretty much figured out that Total Federal Control of Everything is a core feature of Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of America.
Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama Administration’s Environmental Agenda
by Natalie Johnson * May 31, 2016
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that landowners can appeal to a federal court when the government subjects their property to wetlands regulations requiring additional permits.
The unanimous ruling determined that the Clean Water Act “imposes substantial criminal and civil penalties for discharging any pollutant into waters” covered by federal regulations without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The decision could weaken the Obama administration’s environmental agenda.
The Corps is in charge of assessing whether a landowner’s property contains “waters of the United States” or “navigable waters,” which are protected under the Clean Water Act. If officials decide that those waters fall under federal protections, the government will issue property owners jurisdiction determinations, which require individuals to obtain permits to use their own wetlands.
The Hill reported:
The key dispute in the Supreme Court’s case was whether a jurisdictional determination carries legal consequences, a necessary component in order for the decision to be a “final” agency action. The Obama administration argued that since new information can change the finding, it is not like final actions. But writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that since the finding is definitive and binding on federal government agencies, it satisfies the requirement.
Opponents of the Obama administration’s environmental policies hailed the Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. decision as a victory for property rights and individual liberty.
“For more than 40 years, millions of landowners nationwide have had no meaningful way to challenge wrongful application of the federal Clean Water Act to their land. They have been put at the mercy of the government because land covered by the Act is subject to complete federal control,” Principal Attorney M. Reed Hopper of the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation said in a statement Tuesday. “This victory guarantees the rights of millions of property owners.”