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Alaska Files Brief Supporting Property Rights

September 30, 2011, Juneau, Alaska - The State of Alaska filed a brief today supporting the right of property owners to have access to the courts for meaningful judicial review of arbitrary federal compliance orders. The state filed the brief with the U.S. Supreme Court at the direction of Governor Sean Parnell and Attorney General John Burns. Several other states from all parts of the country signed onto the brief with Alaska.

The brief supports Mike and Chantell Sackett of Idaho. The Sacketts were ordered to halt construction of their home after the EPA claimed the 0.63 acre lot was a wetland subject to EPA’s regulation under the Clean Water Act. When the Sacketts tried to get a court to review whether the EPA had jurisdiction, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the case wouldn’t be ripe for judicial review until after the Sacketts restored their lot to its original condition and after the Sacketts sought permitting under the Clean Water Act through a long and expensive process.

Governor Parnell asserts that the Ninth Circuit’s position that the EPA can wield such unchecked power is wrong. It leaves those who receive compliance orders coerced into complying with federal orders because if they don’t comply, they face severe criminal and civil penalties.

“This case is about the fundamental rights of Americans to challenge the federal government when it seeks to ham-handedly exert authority without ever providing the chance for a good-faith challenge to that authority," Governor Parnell said. “Alaskans should be concerned; what is happening to the Sacketts has played out in our state.”

In 2009, the State of Alaska filed a petition asking for judicial review of a Clean Water Act regulatory finding that is preventing Fairbanks from building a planned playground and athletic field.

"The EPA doesn’t want courts to review its wetlands determinations. It simply threatens fines and penalties if people won’t accept the maze of federal permitting requirements,” Attorney General Burns said. “Landowners must have the right to challenge the federal government when it claims authority to regulate how they use their own property. We will continue to be vigilant and challenge federal overreach when the facts and the law support it.”

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