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EPA wetlands order can be challenged by land owners, Supreme Court rules

The Idaho couple, saying the ‘EPA used bullying and threats of terrifying fines’ to halt building of their dream home, thanks Supreme Court justices for ‘affirming’ their right to a court hearing.

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The US Supreme Court Wednesday ruled unanimously in favor of an Idaho couple seeking to have their day in court to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency order that scuttled plans to build their dream home on a subdivided lot the EPA said was a federal wetland.

The couple, Chantell and Michael Sackett, had started to fill the home site with dirt and gravel to prepare for construction. But the EPA intervened, announcing that the property was a regulated wetland. Agency officials ordered the couple to restore the land to its original state or face up to $75,000 a day in fines.

The Sacketts disputed the EPA’s wetland designation and filed a lawsuit to litigate the issue in federal court.

The EPA argued that the Sacketts’ lawsuit must be dismissed because the EPA’s Clean Water Act compliance order did not amount to final agency action.

A federal judge and the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the EPA and threw the suit out. Facing bankrupting daily fines and no clear avenue for judicial review, the Sacketts took their case to the Supreme Court.

In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, the high court said the Sacketts are entitled to challenge the EPA order in federal court.

“The Sacketts may bring a civil action [under the Administrative Procedure Act] to challenge the issuance of the EPA’s order,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in a statement from the bench announcing the decision. “The APA provides for judicial review of final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in court,” he said.

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