The Washington Post

Supreme Court halts EPA bullying

Yesterday, the Supreme Court, in a 9-0 decision, slapped down President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency’s arrogant denial of property owners’ right to contest in court the EPA’s administrative abuses. It was a revealing decision — about the Obama administration, more than the court.

In this administration, the 9-0 Supreme Court decisions highlight the degree to which the president’s policies are far outside the mainstream, both legal and political. If you can get Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia to agree that the government has overstepped its bounds, you know that the administration’s disregard of constitutional and statutory boundaries is as egregious as it is obvious.

Last February, the Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision smacked down the administration for disregarding the ministerial exception and empowering the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to challenge churches’ and synagogues’ decisions to fire their religious leaders. Not only was this a remarkable disregard for constitutional precedent, but it also was a window into the administration’s arrogant disregard of religious liberty, which played out in the Obamacare mandate on contraception.

Yesterday, we saw the same imperiousness with regard to the EPA. SCOTUS blog’s Lyle Denniston explains:

The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, opens the federal courthouse door to an Idaho couple who have a .63-acre parcel of property close to Priest Lake, and plan to build a house on it. EPA considered their property to be a “wetland,” and told them to stop the development, and restore the property to its former state — or face fines that the government said could reach $75,000 a day. The EPA acted under the Clean Water Act, and it insisted — with the approval of lower courts — that the couple could not sue to challenge the order and had to wait for court review at the option of EPA. That was the result the Court overturned in Sackett, et al., v. EPA, et al. (docket 10-1062). . . .

The decision reflected the strongly negative reaction most of the Justices had to the denial of a right to sue when this case was argued in January. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., who was among those protesting most strongly at that hearing, wrote a separate opinion Wednesday complaining that the scope of the Clean Water Act’s application to private property is unclear, and Congress or the EPA should move to clarify it. Alito also argued that the treatment of the Sacketts, and others denied a right to sue EPA, was “unthinkable” in a country that values due process.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to allow “the strong-arming of regulated parties” comes as a welcomed antidote to the Obama administration’s roving EPA bullies. It also bespeaks of the liberals’ hypocritical denial of access to the courts, usually a cherished and inviolate right in their eyes — at least when it comes to individuals pursuing liberal objectives.

Denniston noted that “the EPA is under heavy political protest, among Republicans in Congress and conservative voters, who regard the EPA as an example of government grown too large with too much power to intrude into individuals’ private lives. EPA, of course, has its strong defenders — in the environmental community and, indeed, in the Obama Administration, which had defended the bar to anti-EPA lawsuits that the Court has now struck down.” Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail should use this case as evidence of an administration run amok and of the importance of selecting future Supreme Court justices who will check the authoritarian impulses of the executive branch.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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