Supreme Court ruling could aid developers on properties containing wetlands

Unanimous decision allows landowners to take regulatory decisions straight to court.

June 09, 2016 |

Photo: chris white/Creative Commons.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision gives landowners a new way to challenge some federal regulatory decisions pertaining to wetlands designation.

The 8-0 ruling said landowners can go straight to court after federal regulators decide that a piece of property containing wetlands is covered by the Clean Water Act. The decision may streamline the approval process for people and companies seeking to develop wetlands.

The case involved a proposed peat-mining operation on 530 acres in Minnesota. The property owners and a mining company, Hawkes Co., are fighting a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers making the land subject to federal regulation.

The Obama administration argued that a landowner can’t sue until a permit application is rejected, or if the owner faces a federal enforcement action for proceeding without a permit.

U.S. appeals courts’ rulings had been divided on whether a regulatory decision involving restrictions on the use of property could be challenged immediately in federal court. 

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