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Sackett v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

September 17, 2010

CHANTELL SACKETT; MICHAEL SACKETT, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY; STEVEN L. JOHNSON, ADMINISTRATOR, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho Edward J. Lodge, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:08-cv-00185-EJL

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gould, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted December 9, 2009

Submission Withdrawn December 23, 2009

Resubmitted August 18, 2010 Seattle, Washington

Before: Robert R. Beezer, Ronald M. Gould and Richard C. Tallman, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

We determine whether federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to conduct review of administrative compliance orders issued by the Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1319(a)(3), before the EPA has filed a lawsuit in federal court to enforce the compliance order. We join our sister circuits and hold that the Clean Water Act precludes pre-enforcement judicial review of administrative compliance orders, and that such preclusion does not violate due process.

I.

Chantell and Michael Sackett ("the Sacketts") own a 0.63-acre undeveloped lot in Idaho near Priest Lake ("the Parcel"). In April and May of 2007, the Sacketts filled in about one-half acre of that property with dirt and rock in preparation for building a house.

On November 26, 2007, the EPA issued a compliance order against the Sacketts. The compliance order alleged that the Parcel is a wetland subject to the Clean Water Act ("CWA") and that the Sacketts violated the CWA by filling in their property without first obtaining a permit.*fn1 The compliance order required the Sacketts to remove the fill material and restore the Parcel to its original condition. The compliance order states that "[v]violation of, or failure to comply with, the foregoing Order may subject Respondents to (1) civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day of violation . . . [or] (2) administrative penalties of up to $11,000 per day for each violation."

The Sacketts sought a hearing with the EPA to challenge the finding that the Parcel is subject to the CWA. The EPA did not grant the Sacketts a hearing and continued to assert CWA jurisdiction over the Parcel. The Sacketts then filed this action in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. They chal- lenged the compliance order as (1) arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); (2) issued without a hearing in violation of the Sacketts' procedural due process rights; and (3) issued on the basis of an "any information available" standard that is unconstitutionally vague.

The district court granted the EPA's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss the Sacketts' claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. It concluded that the CWA precludes judicial review of compliance orders before the EPA has started an enforcement action in federal court. The Sacketts filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion for clarification and ...


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