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Supreme Court sides with property owners against the EPA

Six years after construction halted on their small home, this Idaho couple finally received a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that granted them the right to contest the EPA allegations, a landmark case that after being shut out, finally allows Americans access to the courts in environmental cases.

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Unanimous Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that property owners have a right to a hearing to challenge the government’s threats to fine them for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act1.

The court sided with Mike and Chantell Sackett who for six years have fought back against an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order that blocked construction of their new home near Priest Lake in Idaho, threatening fines of over $30,000 per day. In 2005, the couple purchased a .63 acre lot, began preparing for construction on a small three bedroom home, and construction was halted in 2007. The property has been untouched as the agency said the property could not be disturbed without a permit as it was deemed wetlands.

“Compliance orders will remain an effective means of securing prompt voluntary compliance in those many cases where there is no substantial basis to question their validity,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in an opinion issued. Further, in court he noted that the Sacketts have never “seen a ship or other vessel cross their yard.”

The court rejected the EPA’s argument that their ability to deal with pollution would be compromised if property owners had quick access to courts to contest their orders.

Six year battle against the EPA

The Sacketts had long contested the EPA’s determination that their small lot contained wetlands which are regulated by the Clean Water act, asserting that there was no reasonable means to challenge the EPA order to stop construction, unless they wished to risk daily fines.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented in an opinion that the only decision made by the Supreme Court was the couple’s ability to contest the EPA finding that their property is subject to the Clean Water Act. Justice Samuel Alito urged Congress to address confusion over the EPA’s reach regarding the Clean Water Act, noting the EPA can currently claim authority over any property wet for even part of the year, not just waterways.

As a result of the ruling, the couple will be allowed to argue in federal court that their land should not be subject to EPA regulation.

The wide reaching support for the ruling

Annually, the EPA issues thousands of administrative compliance orders, issuing fines for alleged violations of environmental laws.

Dozens of groups ranging from general contractors, agricultural businesses, business groups and home builders joined the couple to push the court to allow for the contesting of EPA compliance orders.

National Association of Home Builders Chairman Barry Rutenberg said in a statement, “Home Builders support sensible policies that protect the environment, and they support the goals of the Clean Water Act. But they do not support the imposition of regulations that cannot be challenged. That was the case here, as the EPA was answering to no one as it expanded its authority under the Act. This ruling provides a check on EPA’s capricious expansion of its regulatory authority. Finally, home owners and home builders have a way of challenging EPA compliance orders before they face big fines.”

In a statement, the Sacketts thanked the Supreme Court for “affirming that we have rights, and that the EPA is not a law unto itself.”


1Clean Water Act

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Cecile Martin

    May 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    At last – something for the property owners! 🙂

  2. Hootie Johnston

    May 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    when you fear the government it is tyrany, when the government fears the people it is liberty… which one applies?

  3. AgentGenius

    May 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Cecile Martin it’s not that the EPA shouldn’t have authority, but until yesterday, there was no way to really contest their authority in court. So that’s a huge win – nothing should be so absolute, especially administrative fines of $30k/day!

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Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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