Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Supreme Court supportive to property owner in wetlands disagreement

The United States Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared likely to rule that homeowner can challenge the federal government in court over the requirement for permits under a nationwide water security law in a case including companies prepare for a Minnesota peat mine.

The court heard a one-hour argument in a case balancing property rights and environmental law, in this instance the landmark 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act. A majority of the eight justices appeared supportive towards North Dakota-based Hawkes Co Inc., which is combating an Obama administration finding that its property consists of wetlands.

The law mandates that property owners get permits in such scenarios.

Whether a specific plot of land falls under the law's jurisdiction is necessary to developers and other property owners because such a finding sets off a prolonged and expensive permitting procedure.

Hawkes' lawyers argued the company needs to have the ability to contest whether it even has to go through the license process.

Liberal and conservative justices alike expressed issue about the current plan's problem on property owners.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts stated candidates who overlook a government finding that they need a permit do so at "terrific useful threat.".

Liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the process "extremely strenuous and extremely expensive." Liberal Stephen Breyer called the government choice that Hawkes needed a permit "perfectly fit for review in the courts.".

Just liberal Elena Kagan expressed assistance for the government, raising issues about the effect a ruling favoring property owners would have on actions by other government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Property rights advocates stated the permitting procedure can take 2 years and cost up to $270,000, with owners facing charges of as much as $37,500 a day for noncompliance.

Company groups consisting of the National Association of Home Builders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 29 states filed court papers opposing the Obama administration in the case.

The case follows the justices' unanimous 2012 ruling that property owners facing enforcement action under the Clean Water Act can ask a court to step in before being compelled to comply or pay punitive damages.

The Obama administration last year released a brand-new policy defining the scope of federal jurisdiction over bodies of water. A federal appeals court put the guideline on hold after it was challenged by 18 states. Only eight justices took part in the case following Justice Antonin Scalia's February death .