The Supreme Court’s Watershed 9-0 Ruling

Sackett v. EPA ruling is a victory for property rights

In a 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the property of Chantell and Mike Sackett is not the waterways of the United States containing wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Idaho couple’s property, where they prepared to build a home, was near a ditch that fed into Priest Lake. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanded that the Sacketts restore the site, threatening to fine them $40,000 per day. The Sacketts contended that their property was not the waterways of the United States (WOTUS). In their 9-0 ruling on May 25, the court agreed. Joe Biden didn’t like it. 

“The Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in Sackett v. EPA will take our country backwards,” the Delaware Democrat said in a statement. “It puts our Nation’s wetlands—and the rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds connected to them – at risk of pollution and destruction, jeopardizing the sources of clean water that millions of American families, farmers, and businesses rely on.” Partisans of property rights might focus on the term “backward.”

Government agencies are easy to start but difficult, if not impossible, to shut down. In a powerful agency like the EPA, unelected bureaucrats make draconian rulings with little accountability. In the government’s vision, the growth of EPA power is progress, and any curtailment of EPA power allegedly takes the country “backwards.” It shouldn’t take a Supreme Court ruling to set back EPA zealotry, but that’s where we are. 

“The justices respect private property rights,” said American Farm Bureau Federation (AFPB) president Zippy Duvall. “It’s now time for the Biden administration to do the same and rewrite the Waters of the United States Rule. Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources they’re entrusted with, but they deserve a rule that provides clarity and doesn’t require a team of attorneys to properly care for their land.” 

For further reading, see Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy Versus the Environment by Ryan M. Yonk and Kenneth J. Sim. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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