One of the core tenets of a socialist government is to control as much land in the nation as possible including privately owned land. Barack Obama is a socialist and he used his administration to trample on the rights of land owners across the United States and then gave them very little recourse to fight for what is rightfully theirs.
He used the EPA to impose the Waters of the United States regulation that was used to define what constituted waters that fell under the regulation of the federal government.
In 2012, Peter and Frankie Smith purchased 20 acres of land outside of Santa Fe in hopes of building their dream home to retire to and live happily ever after. As is typical in any desert landscape there are dry washes and stream beds that cross their land.
In one dry streambed they found lots of trash which they spent time cleaning up and hauling away. As they picked up the discarded tin cans, wine bottles and other items they also smoothed off the bottom of the desert wash and cleaned it up to make it look nice.
That’s when the big bad Army Corps of Engineers moved in and told them that wash was a ‘water of the United States’ and that their cleaning and smoothing of the wash constituted illegal dredging and pollution flow problems that could affect the Rio Grande River, some 25 miles away. By having the wash declared a water of the United States the Smiths were now subject to the rules and regulations of the Clean Water Act, which they were now in violation of according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Not knowing where to turn, the Smiths ended up seeking the help of the Pacific Legal Foundation.
In 2012, Mike and Chantell Sackett purchased nearly two-thirds of an acre in a new development. They set about making their plans for their dream home. Before they could start building the house, they spent three days hauling in dirt to fill in areas on the lot and get everything leveled off.
Suddenly, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers showed up on the site and ordered the couple to halt all activity. It turns out the agencies suddenly declared the land in the new subdivision was a wetland. Six months later they received a compliance order from the EPA informing them that the lot was a wetland and that they had to restore it back to its natural condition. If they did not comply with the order, the EPA notice said that they could be fined up to $37,500 per day.
The Sacketts tried to appeal the order but were told by the EPA that decisions involving wetlands are not open to appeal. They took their case to the courts and all of the courts up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that landowners had no right to appeal an EPA order involving wetlands until fines have been assessed. The case then went to the US Supreme Court where Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the Sacketts should have the right to file a civil suit against the EPA under the Administrative Procedures Act since the EPA order is a final one and that the couple were facing the huge fines. He also wrote that the Clean Water Act, which is what the EPA was using to force the Sacketts to restore their property back to the original condition, is not exempt from judicial review.
What happened to the Smiths and Sacketts, happened to many other land owners who were targeted and persecuted by the Obama administration. In February 2017, President Donald Trump ordered EPA Chief Scott Pruitt to look at some of the Obama era rules and regulations and make changes where necessary.
In the meantime, the Pacific Legal Foundation challenged an Obama era rule that gave land owners only 120 days to contest an EPA ruling. This week, the Supreme Court ruled that the 120-day rule was wrong. They stated that land owners should have up to 6 years to contest an EPA ruling that adversely affects them, thus giving them time to properly mount their legal challenge.
Under the Trump administration, land owners are gaining some of their rights back and it’s about time.