Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:01 pm | By Paul Petrick
On January 9, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving yet another instance of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overreach. Sackett v. EPA involves two Idaho property-owners with a .63 acre parcel near idyllic Priest Lake. In 2007, Michael and Chantell Sackett sought to build a home on their bucolic real estate and began preparing their land for construction. Their dreams were thwarted when the EPA asserted that their property was a federally protected wetland. The EPA ordered Mr. and Mrs. Sackett to reverse their actions and obtain a multi-thousand dollar permit prior to any subsequent home construction. Non-compliance with this order would have resulted in a fine of more than $30,000 per day.
The issue before the Court is whether the EPA’s authority to issue non-reviewable compliance orders under the Clean Water Act violates a property-owner’s Fifth Amendment right to due process. Not surprisingly, the comical Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to uphold this basic protection against government expropriation. Fortunately for the Sacketts, the jurists of the High Court appeared to recognize that the Obama Administration’s argument did not pass the laugh test. Justice Samuel Alito labeled the government’s conclusions as “outrageous.” Chief Justice Roberts gave Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart a taste of his own medicine by asking “What would you do [if you were the Sacketts]?” Even the Court’s liberal bloc got in on the action with Justices Breyer and Kagan ridiculing the actions of the EPA.
Unfortunately, the Sacketts will have to wait until the end of June for the Supreme Court to determine their fate. Until then, they will have to continue to bear the cost of lost time and treasure from their encounter with heavy-handed bureaucrats. Idaho may be the land of potatoes, but leave it to the EPA to ensure that the only thing to get mashed is property rights.
De Soto on the Real Cause of the Global Financial Mess
Monday, December 5, 2011 3:30 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek
Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, has yet another insightful op-ed in the New York Times, this time dealing with the global financial crisis. In the opinion piece, de Soto explains that the United States and Europe have continually missed opportunities to enact real reforms that would pull the world out of this crisis. Instead of treating the “disease,” which he explains is the lack of knowledge of who owns what assets and therefore risks, lawmakers have focused mainly on the “symptoms”—faulty loans, the mortgage crisis, and rising unemployment.
Had those symptoms been the real cause of the crisis, “vulture capitalists” should have swept in by now. They should have spotted the signals that send knowledge of who is in trouble and — following the laws of supply and demand — picked up on the cheap the potentially lucrative remains of the nonperforming assets and transactions, correcting the deficiencies that led to them…Mechanisms in the United States and Europe to record and signal the crucial knowledge that determines whether it is reasonable to grant private credit — who has the property rights over the assets, equity and liabilities, and therefore holds the risks, and what the opportunities are — are no longer reliable. The knowledge system is broken.
PRA Supports the Barrasso-Heller Amendment to the Energy and Water Minibus
Monday, November 14, 2011 4:00 pm | By J. Michael Wahlen
Today, PRA released a Legislative Alert in support of the Barrasso-Heller Amendment. This Amendment seeks to stop the “Guidance” issued by the EPA to expand the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The new Guidance would significantly expand the type and amount of waterways the federal government could regulate. Under the new interpretation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could regulate not just all navigable waterways, but interstate, intrastate and even non-navigable ones as well.
This jurisdiction clearly goes beyond the original intent of the CWA and greatly expands the power of the federal government. The Barrasso-Heller Amendment eliminates this Guidance by clearly defining and limiting the types of waterways the federal government can regulate. This Amendment ultimately prevents property rights from ceding away from private citizens to the EPA.
As the Alert notes:
[These powers] were limited in the past by two U.S. Supreme Court cases which clarified the scope of federal jurisdiction over wetlands and other "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2001) and Rapanos v. U.S. (2006) have significantly reduced the potential for abuse under the Clean Water Act, by limiting the previously broad definition of navigable water.
Unfortunately, the new Guidance seeks to subvert the court’s ruling, ceding power back to the federal government from the landowner. The Barrasso-Heller Amendment prevents this expansion of government power by clearly defining and limiting the waterways which the federal government can regulate.