Two steps are needed in order to return balance to the relationship between government and landowners. First, Congress should revisit the language of its environmental statutes to give guidance to, and remove discretion from, the EPA. These statutes’ notoriously ambiguous language invites coercion and abuse. Second, the courts must take a more active role in defending the rights of the individual. It is telling that before the Supreme Court decided for the Sacketts, both the district court and circuit court had ruled for the EPA. And, in fact, the government had argued the Supreme Court should not even hear the case because no circuit split — disagreement between the regional circuit courts, a primary reason for a Supreme Court hearing — existed on the issue.
John Adams had never met an EPA regulator when he proclaimed, “Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.” But if property is only secured at the mercy of EPA bureaucrats, then we have lost one of the cornerstones of our American experiment.
Paul H. Jossey is a lawyer living in Alexandria, Virginia. His interests include environmental policy and First Amendment issues.