Tuesday morning, members of the U.S. Senate will hear from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other westerners on federal policies that impact their livelihoods and their personal and property rights.
The Western Caucus hearing is entitled “Washington Obstacles to Prosperity and Property Rights in the West,” and will be chaired by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID). Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) will also provide remarks and questions.
Mike and Chantell Sackett, an Idaho couple victimized by the Environmental Protection Agency, will also be at the hearing.
The Sacketts, who are building a home near Priest Lake, have challenged actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency related to the agency declaring their properly a wetland and consequently restricting development on it.
In January, their case against the EPA went before the Supreme Court. A decision is expected sometime this summer.
The Huffington Post reported:
The justices were considering whether to let an Idaho couple challenge an EPA order identifying their land as “protected wetlands.” Mike and Chantell Sackett wanted to build their house on the land. But the EPA says the Sacketts can’t challenge the order to restore the land to wetlands or face thousands of dollars in fines.
Justice Samuel Alito called EPA’s actions “outrageous.” Justice Antonin Scalia noted the “high-handedness of the agency” in dealing with private property. Chief Justice John Roberts said that the EPA’s contention that the Sacketts’ land is wetlands, something the couple disagrees with, would never be put to a test under current procedure.
In January, the Washington Times summarized the Sackett’s predicament:
Imagine this. You buy a vacant lot in a residential subdivision across the road from a small lake. The lot is zoned for residential building. It is surrounded by other homes and homes being built. You submit your plans and blueprints and receive a building permit.
You start grading the property to build a home.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps. of Engineers show up and accuse you of building on a “wetland”. The EPA issues what is known as a “compliance order”. You must stop all building. You must restore the land to its natural state. You must replace and plant trees. You must place a fence around the land and maintain the property in a pristine condition.
You have no right to a pre-enforcement challenge of the order. You must comply with the order or be sued by the EPA and face fines between 35-75 thousand dollars per day.
“The Sackett case involves the question whether a property owner – here, the Sacketts – can obtain judicial review of an EPA wetlands order even though the EPA itself has not brought its own lawsuit,” a blog post at the Heritage Foundation noted.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am in the Dirksen Senate Building, Room 628. Other scheduled witnesses include Damien Schiff, Senior Staff Attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation; Dr. Dennis Fife, Mayor of Brigham City, Utah; Mark Knight, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Kansas Livestock Association; and Buster Johnson, Chairman of the Mohave Board of Supervisors in Arizona.
Senator Crapo’s office says that video will be available following the hearing on Pathfire and audio from the hearing will also be available.
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