The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners can sue to challenge a federal government compliance order under the clean water law, a decision that could be a turning point for the Clean Water Act (CWA) and puts new limits on key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power.
The justices unanimously rejected the U.S. governmen’s position that individuals or companies must first fail to comply with an EPA order and face potentially costly enforcement action before a court can review the case.
The opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia was a victory for an Idaho couple who challenged a 2007 EPA order that required them to restore a wetland they had filled with dirt and rock as they began to build a new vacation home.
Under the law, violations of the CWA can result in fines of up to $37,500 per day, plus as much as an additional $37,500 per day for violating the EPA compliance order.
EPA issues nearly 3,000 compliance orders a year that require accused violators of environmental laws to stop alleged harmful actions and repair any damage that was caused. — WLJ