Sackett v. EPA

Facts of the Case

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a compliance order, which, inter alia, accused certain property owners of depositing fill materials on a residential lot they owned, charged the owners with engaging in the discharge of pollutants into a navigable waterway without a permit, in violation of § 301 of the Clean Water Act,


Do landowners have a right to go to court to challenge a Clean Water Act order of the Environmental Protection Agency?


Yes. In a 9-0 decision, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion holding that the EPA’s compliance order is a final agency action, and there is no other remedy for the Sackett’s other than judicial review. Justice Scalia rejected each of the government’s arguments that the Clean Water Act precluded judicial review of compliance orders. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a concurrence, noting that the Court ruled only on whether the Sackett’s can seek review of the EPA’s authority to regulate their land, not whether they can challenge the specific terms of the compliance order. Justice Samuel A. Alito also concurred, stating that judicial review of compliance is better than nothing, but the only real solution is a clarification by Congress of the ambiguities in the Clean Water Act .

Case Information

  • Citation: 566 US _ (2012)
  • Granted: Jun 27, 2011
  • Argued: Jan 9, 2012
  • Decided Mar 21, 2012