Speech: Sackett v EPA, a Patriotic Imperative
Resource Development Council
Governor Sean Parnell
May 22, 2012
It’s a real honor for me to be here with you. And Mike and Chantell and team, thank you so much. Let’s give them another round of applause.
When I first heard about the Sacketts’ situation, I was outraged. That could be any private property owner in this country. It was really nothing for a governor to step up in that situation -- and our Department of Law and the AGs, who did great work on this, from our standpoint.
But what it took was the courage of individual Americans when the federal government oversteps its bounds. And they’re talking about a $23,000 piece of property and the federal government imposing up to $75,000 a day in fines. It took the courage of two average-but-extraordinary Americans to step forward. And when one of you, or one of them steps forward, the rest of America can step forward too.
And that’s what happened in this case. Many more states rallied around the Sacketts. Pacific Legal Foundation, thank you for that great legal work in this area. To get a 9-0 decision out of this court is something else. It just demonstrates how clearly over the bounds the EPA was.
I know one thing: I know Alaskans will fight federal overreach at every opportunity, and Mike and Chantell, we will continue to stand with you.
Notions of federalism are at stake here as well -- the notion that power is distributed among the states rather than the federal government.
Yet today, in the United States, that constitutional principle of federalism is under attack. I see it when I see Congress broken down and unable to exercise appropriate oversight, and pass laws that need to be passed, or exercise appropriate oversight over agencies. And what happens is that agencies begin to flex their muscles.
It could easily happen in Alaska as well, but we’re seeing in Alaska most notably in our federal government. With Congress broken down, the federal agencies have had freer rein to stretch the boundaries and, as you heard with the Sacketts, step way over them.
We’ve seen it with the Park Service, the Department of Interior, the EPA.
In the Sackett’s case, it was never about whether an entity has a right to fill a wetland. It was always about whether -- and when -- a federal agency decision is subject to judicial review. That was the issue in this case.
For U.S. citizens to be told that they cannot get judicial review without having to restore their property to its original state or pay the fine --that was unconstitutional. There’s no question.
The Sackett case is an example of working together to protect our individual rights -- rights that a heavy-handed government would trample, whether you’re from Idaho, Alaska, or any other state. That’s why we joined in as a state.
In Alaska, and in other states, we’re pushing back. We are standing up for federalism, for our property rights, for our freedom. As with the Sacketts, this is our patriotic imperative: Judicial review of capricious agency decisions is our constitutional birthright. And we will most certainly fight for that.
I am concerned however that the EPA has not reformed its ways. I wish I could tell you that it has.
One official named Mark Pollins, director of EPA’s Water Enforcement Division, recently told a legal forum of the American Bar Association that the EPA has no intention of changing its enforcement program just because of the Sackett case. No intention.
Let me quote him. He said, “I don't see dramatic shifts in how administration enforcement authority is used, but I see continued evaluation.”
We need a change. We don’t need more studying or evaluation. We need a change.
Additionally, he said, the pace of its Clean Water Act compliance orders will not change one iota, because of the ruling.
Here’s what else Pollins said: “What it really changed is that [these] orders are now reviewable. It's pretty much the same game”
And that is true. There are many at that agency who may see this as a game.
But these orders are now reviewable by a court, and every legal avenue available must be used to demand accountability and fairness. And so I say, as an Alaskan, as an American: “Game on!”
You may hear about the EPA budget for FY 2013 being one percent lower than for the current year. But let us be reminded that since its inception in 1970, the EPA budget has had an average annual increase of about $225 million a year.
And then from 2009 to 2010, it had an increase of $2.7 billion dollars, more than 10 times the average annual increase.
It’s like going from being a middleweight to a heavyweight over a long period of time, shedding two pounds and telling people you’ve tightened your belt. The baseline is significantly increased. For those of us in energy rich states, they’re not fooling us.
We surely need more Americans like Mike and Chantell -- Americans willing to stand up, endure the stress and financial strain of taking their cases all the way to the highest court.
And if we have more Americans like them, more Americans like you, willing to stand up and be counted, willing to stand up for your constitutional rights, willing to stand up for your property rights, willing to stand up for due process -- we will have a country known for our individual liberty and opportunity, not one of diminished federalism. So I’m here to say thank you, thank you Sacketts, thank you Pacific Legal Foundation. I know this case is not over yet, and we will continue to stand with you.
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