Nearly two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court smacked down the Environmental Protection Agency in a landmark property rights case. The court ruled that the EPA was overstepping its bounds in going after the Sackett family of Idaho. In 2007 the Sacketts wanted to build their dream home on their own land, but the EPA swept in and tried to stop them, arguing that their land was a “wetland.” It wasn’t a wetland, the Sacketts tried to go to court to win their property rights back, but the EPA ruled that they had no right even to defend themselves in court. The EPA staked out the position that the Sacketts could only deal with the EPA, which had already ruled against them.
The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed with the EPA, and the Sacketts won.
Well, over the course of their suit, the Sacketts worked with an Idaho environmental consulting firm, Kagel Environmental LLC. Kagel provided evidence that the land in question was not a wetland. The DTN Progressive Farmer reports that Kagel Environmental has been subjected to targeting by federal authorities since they worked on the Sackett case.
Ray Kagel, co-owner of Rigby, Idaho-based Kagel Environmental LLC, told DTN in an exclusive interview that he has never faced the delays now faced from the Corps of Engineers when it comes to wetlands delineation work for clients.
The Corps Walla Walla (Wash.) District maintains the recent delays from its field office in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, are just part of the usual course of business.
The delays come from the same northern Idaho county where Kagel successfully defended the Sacketts and another property owner who faced criminal indictment for allegedly filling wetlands without a permit.
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.
Joseph Saxon, public affairs chief for the Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District, told DTN the Kagel allegations are being reviewed.
After the Sackett ruling, Kagel said, a Corps Walla Walla district field office added more layers of what he says are unnecessary steps to rectifying wetlands determinations for subsequent clients.
Kagel asked the Idaho congressional delegation and other members of Congress for help in ending the delays.
In a Dec. 20, 2013 letter to Sens. David Vitter, R-La.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and James Risch, R-Idaho, Kagel said he believes the “targeting” has resulted in “undue hardship and stress for our clients.” Vitter is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy this month, the senators asked for a February briefing from the Corps writing, “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.”
Read the whole thing. Kagel cites a troubling pattern of delays, runarounds and denials by the Corps of Engineers office on wetlands determinations. He says the CoE has changed its tactics ever since the Sackett ruling. The harassment tactics resemble those the the IRS has admitted to in abusing Tea Party and conservative groups, and which King Street Patriots’ founder Catherine Engelbrecht has suffered since she founded the election integrity watchdog group.
Obviously, the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is not part of the Environmental Protection Agency. It answers directly to the Department of the Army at the Pentagon, which means that USACE answers to generals appointed to their posts by President Obama. Likewise, the EPA is an executive branch agency that answers to the president; its administrator is a political appointee and is given a seat in the president’s cabinet meetings.
Any coordination of actions between the USACE and EPA would probably originate above both of them.