A Victory over the Ideological and Tyrannical Thugs at the EPA

Daniel J. Mitchell
Posted: Mar 23, 2012 12:01 AM

In some recent polling data, most Americans expressed a negative view of the federal government, with many of them in another poll saying it poses an “immediate threat to citizens.”

That probably sounds extreme to some people, but this story about IRS abuse should be enough to convince any normal person the the federal government is despicable.

For another example, let’s look at a case involving the thugs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This Reason TV video provides the background.

This is a horrifying video to watch. Anybody with a shred of decency should be outraged.

Fortunately, all nine Supreme Court Justices sided with the property owners. I don’t know if they were outraged, but they made the right legal decision. The Wall Street Journal opined about the outcome.

These are hard times for economic liberty, but the Supreme Court on Wednesday offered a modest reason to hope. In a 9-0 ruling, they concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t terrorize Americans via regulation without allowing them a day in court. …The case landed at the High Court after the Sacketts tried to appeal the wetlands designation. But the EPA refused to grant a review or lookback hearing, because an appeals process isn’t explicitly required by the Clean Water Act. Only after the EPA moved to enforce the compliance order would the Sacketts get their day in court. The EPA almost never needs to enforce, however, because disobeying a compliance order—even one that is later overturned—is legal proof in its mind of “willfulness” or a tacit admission of guilt. The only way to defend yourself is to break the law and therefore invite even higher penalties. The Sacketts claimed this Star Chamber violates their due process rights. …Congress ought to amend the Clean Water Act to make the law’s jurisdiction clearer. Meantime, the ordeal of the Sacketts shows once again how this agency with a $10 billion budget and 17,000 agents has become a regulatory tyranny for millions of law-abiding Americans.

Sadly, the decision still leaves the EPA thugs with too much power for discretionary abuse, as Brian Garst notes.

We’ve still got a long way to go to restore basic property rights in this country, and the Sackett’s still have to fight the EPA on the merits of the case as they seek to disprove the claim that their own property is a “wetland,” much less a “navigable water” of which the Act supposedly deals, despite having no water. But at least now they have their Constitutional due process rights recognized, so that they may challenge EPA’s jack-booted thugs in court without first having to rack up millions in fines waiting for EPA to allow them to do so.

But let’s enjoy at least a partial victory. I’m smiling today at the thought of unhappy bureaucrats at the EPA.

Last but not least, I want to acknowledge that government thuggery is not limited to the federal government in Washington.

Gee, do you detect a pattern?