Friday, February 7, 2014

Corps of Engineers Retaliates Against Idaho Firm

[I'm trying to get re-established through a back-door Rube Goldberg approach to blogging, until I become smarter about the nuanced intricacies of the art, if ever. I previously had a simple control of the nature of this creature, but like so much in the universe, it has become inexplicably complex for no discernible reason.]

I wrote several months ago on the story of the Sackett family, who had purchased a lot within an established subdivision, surrounded by other homes, and sought to build a home. The EPA, though, decreed that they could not finish the construction they had started because the lot was considered a 'wetland'. The Sacketts protested that they had already established that the lot, and certainly the surrounding homes, was not, in fact, a wetland. The EPA responded that not only was the order to cease construction and repair the lot (including the order to plant vegetation that was never there in the first place) was final, but that the Sacketts could not seek redress through the courts but only through the EPA. The Sacketts were fined in excess of $30,000 per day until they complied. Despite the fact that the area was not classified as a wetland through the appropriate National Fish and Wildlife Wetlands Inventory, the EPA continued to declare that they and only they could make such a final determination, and refused to disclose whatever rationale they had for their actions or for arriving at their determination.

The Sacketts were able to take their plight eventually to the US Supreme Court, which unanimously decided in their favor in the case of Sackett vs EPA (2012).

The story of the long and retributive reach of the federal government does not, unfortunately, end there.

The Sacketts were assisted in their case by Kagel Environmental LLC of Rigby, Idaho, which determined that the Sacketts' lot was not designated as a wetland.  Company founder Ray Kagel, a wetlands expert, says that his company is being targeted by federal authorities since they were cited as a source for the Sacketts in their suit.  Kagel says that "he has never faced the delays now faced from the Corps of Engineers when it comes to wetlands delineation work for clients."
Kagel said at least some Corps field offices are attempting to go around the court's ruling even if trained scientists such as him determine wetlands are not present….  
After the Sackett ruling, Kagel said, a Corps Walla Walla district field office added more layers of what he says are unnecessary steps to rectify wetlands determinations for subsequent clients. 
The Idaho congressional delegation, along with Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) as the ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works, are asking for an explanation from Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Secretary of the Army: 
Any effort by the Army Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency to penalize a business for its prior assistance to landowners dealing with regulatory issues is wholly unacceptable. 
It's not as if Ray Kagel has a problem understanding the intricacies of working with the Corps of Engineers – his expertise arises to a great degree from the fact that he had a long career with Corps. 

Interestingly, the original source of the story from the DTN Progressive Farmer is no longer available, but an extensive quote is found in Bryan Preston's account at PJ Media.  Preston goes on to point out that the actions of the EPA and the Corps of Engineers, since they are completely different and separate entities within the federal government, and assuming that this isn't some sort of remarkable coincidence, must be coordinated at a much higher level in the administration.  How high do you expect that might go?

And to heap one coincidence atop another, I can't help but notice how this looks like business as usual in the realm of the IRS targeting conservative groups. (And in the latest news, despite Obama's declaration that there was "not a smidgen of corruption" in that case, the latest IRS Commissioner felt obligated to apologize to the House Ways and Means Committee nonetheless. So which is it?)

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