The Sacketts and the EPA

Posted: Jan 17, 2012

Written by

JUDITH LEWIS MERNIT, High Country News

It’s hard not to feel for Mike and Chantell Sackett, the Idaho couple who in 2007 saw their plans for a dream home on a remote Idaho lake kiboshed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Last week, when their case against the agency became the first case of 2012 to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, their lawyer, Damien Schiff, told a story of shock and deprivation, one designed to terrify independent dream-home builders nationwide. “They have been injured by the EPA,” he argued. The agency’s “arbitrary and capricious” decision making has “turned their world upside down.”

But Sackett v. EPA might also terrify another segment of the population: Those people whose livelihoods depend on tourists who come to National Forests to fish, relax or otherwise enjoy untreated clean water and landscapes untrammeled by unsupervised development; people concerned about the country’s water supply and our collective power to protect it. Because as the case plays out in the news, the agency and its staff appear increasingly distanced from the people whose natural resources they're charged with protecting. The Sackett saga does not make the EPA look good.

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