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Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Citation: 42 ELR 20064
No. 10-1062, (U.S., 03/21/2012)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that property owners may bring a civil action under the APA to challenge EPA's issuance of a CWA §309 compliance order that directs them to restore their property immediately pursuant to an EPA work plan. The APA provides for judicial review of final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court. Here, the compliance order has all the hallmarks of APA finality. The order requires the owners to restore their property according to an agency-approved plan and to give EPA access to the site. In addition, legal consequences flow from the order because the owners will be subject to double penalties should they fail to comply, and it severely limits their ability to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The order's issuance also marks the "consummation" of EPA's decisionmaking process because the Agency's findings in the compliance order were not subject to further agency review, and the owners have no other adequate remedy in a court. The Court also held that the CWA does not preclude pre-enforcement review of compliance orders. Accordingly, the lower court's judgment dismissing the APA claim was reversed. Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Ginsburg, J., and Alito, J., filed concurring opinions.