On March 21, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, a major victory for persons subjected to administrative "compliance orders" of the EPA, which the EPA had asserted allowed no right to judicial review. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that property owners who had received, without prior hearing, a compliance order under §309 of the Clean Water Act have the right to bring a civil action challenging the order in federal district court under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The case was brought by Michael and Chantell Sackett, owners of a residential lot in Bonner County, Idaho. In preparation for building a house, the landowners filled in part of their lot with dirt and rock. Some months later they received the compliance order from the EPA ordering them to immediately undertake activities to restore the homesite in accordance with a Restoration Work Plan created by the EPA, and further to provide access to the site and to documentation related to the site to EPA employees and their designated representatives. Violation of the compliance order potentially subjected the property owners to fines up to $75,000 per day.
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