Category Archives: Property Rights

Homeowners told permits for their home renovation will cost an extra $11,000, thanks to upzoning in Seattle

The city of Seattle has demanded that Erika Cherry and her husband, Andre, pay $11,000 to the city’s affordable housing fund because their home-renovation project was extensive enough to qualify as new construction.

The house was always going to need a little work.

An unpermitted second bedroom extending into the back alleyway “bounced” when entered, said Erika Cherry, who bought the 650-square-foot Seattle home with her husband, Andre, in late 2018. When the Cherrys demolished a wall, they found newspapers from 1916 — the year the house was built — in place of insulation. Six-foot-tall Andre could touch the low ceilings when he reached up.

But the Cherrys loved the Highland Park neighborhood, where they’d been renting since 2014. And at $325,000, the house was a steal. They filed what Erika Cherry thought were relatively modest plans to renovate the home with the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections in early 2019. They’d bring the addition up to code, enclose the front porch and raise the roof to make the attic livable, on a budget of less than $60,000.

“We were turning a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house,” said architect Greg Krueger.

The city didn’t see it that way. A reviewer said the renovation was substantial enough to qualify as new construction. According to rules passed in 2019, the Cherrys would need to pay $11,000 to the city’s low-income housing fund if they wanted their permit, in addition to the regular permitting fees. That’s more than the Cherrys — already spending $4,200 per month on rent and mortgage while permitting drags on — were willing to pay.

The proposed renovations doubled the square footage and left “very little” of the existing home, department spokesperson Bryan Stevens said in an email. “We have not yet issued the permit and are open to reconsidering if the owners have new information they can provide demonstrating that more of the existing home will be preserved,” Stevens wrote.

The Cherrys say they shouldn’t be penalized for increasing the value of their home, in part by bringing it up to code. The issue is one of equity for the city’s Black residents, Erika Cherry said, who have been displaced from historically Black neighborhoods in part due to upzoning that made the properties more attractive to developers.

The Cherrys have demanded the city grant the permit. If the city refuses, Erika Cherry said, they plan to sue.

The scenario reflects much of the debate over the city’s 2019 Mandatory Housing Affordability plan, which upzoned 27 neighborhood hubs — including Highland Park — with the requirement that new housing there either include low-income apartments in their buildings or be assessed a fee.

The premise of that plan was that more density would mean more affordability. Residents displaced from neighborhoods like the Central District because of rising rents and property taxes would be able to return to new, less-expensive apartments, proponents promised.

It’s not clear that’s been the effect, said real estate agent and Central District native Nicole Bascomb, who is Black. Apart from a few exceptional instances, she hasn’t seen the housing being built in the neighborhood being filled with Black renters, she said. And developers continue to buy out Black homeowners.

“I have no one left in the Central District, not one family member,” she said. “The city is wiping out neighborhoods like the Central District.” Highland Park, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, is also gentrifying, said Gunner Scott, chair of the Highland Park Action Committee.

“The only development I’ve seen since MHA are high-priced townhomes, squeezed three or four on a lot,” Scott said, like the three under construction down the street from the Cherrys. “That’s not the affordable housing we were promised.”

To Erika Cherry, it seems the city is “enabling the transfer of wealth from Black homeowners to developers,” she said, by making it more difficult for those homeowners to hold on to their properties.

In recent weeks, as protests against racism have swept across Seattle and the nation, some have pointed to Seattle’s zoning as perpetuating discrimination. While there hasn’t been an in-depth study of the relationship between Seattle’s recent upzoning and race, mapmaker Kate Macfarlane recently compared a map of the city’s single-family-zoned housing with historical redlining designations. It seemed to her, she said, that neighborhoods that were more diverse in the 1930s are where apartment blocks line the streets today. Conversely, many of Seattle’s historically white neighborhoods — including those with racist covenants in their deeds — remain zoned for single-family housing today.

More broadly, it’s no secret, said Dan Bertolet, a researcher at the Sightline Institute, that “wealthy places are much better at preserving their single family zoning. The zoning is exclusionary on purpose — that’s what people wanted.”

The city disputed racial inequities in upzoning. Upzoned neighborhoods “are spread throughout the city and do not concentrate in a specific geographic area,” Stevens wrote.

Macfarlane said she supports denser, more walkable neighborhoods, but wishes wealthier — whiter — neighborhoods were upzoned along with places like Highland Park. “When we look at the Central District and we say, it’s close to downtown, it has great bus service, we should allow more housing here,” she said, “we should apply the same criteria to Madison Park, and North Capitol Hill and Queen Anne.”

The Cherrys have partnered with national libertarian law firm The Institute for Justice to press their case with the city. Erika Cherry said she didn’t consider the ideological fit when looking for an attorney, and the firm was the first to hear them out.

Their attorney, Bill Maurer, said asking the Cherrys to pay into the affordable housing fund showed the city’s building code is fundamentally flawed. “If this is what the city intended when it passed Mandatory Housing Affordability,” Maurer said, “maybe it should go back to the drawing board.”

Seattle Times Article dated July 27 2020 By Katherine Khashimova Long

 

Will the voters freeze new housing development in November?

If a poison causes a disease, the obvious cure has to be even more poison, right? To most of us, that prescription sounds insane—but it’s a fair description of California’s approach to addressing the disease that is the state’s affordable housing shortage. Because much of the existing shortage is caused by government interference with the housing market, the solution, some people reason, must be even more government meddling.

That certainly seems to be the theory behind the misleadingly titled “Rental Affordability Act” appearing on California’s November ballot. This latest misguided scheme, which would allow cities to enact rent control caps on most homes at least 15 years old, will only worsen the affordable housing crisis.

Why is affordable housing such a problem in California? There are a variety of reasons, including restrictive zoning laws, environmental restrictions and other regulatory burdens, punishing impact fees, and NIMBY opposition from other landowners.

But when it comes to building new apartments, one disincentive looms above all others: rent control. Rent control first arose in California in the 1970s in response to changing residential demographics. With a scarcity of affordable single-family homes, more Californians moved into apartments. That, in turn, led to a shortage of apartments. With the supply low and demand high, rents correspondingly rose. In response, liberal enclaves like Santa Monica and San Francisco imposed rent control schemes.

The impact on housing supplies was predictable: Builders feared losing money in rent-controlled jurisdictions, so they took their business and investment elsewhere.

In 1995, the legislature stepped in to limit the damage by passing the bi-partisan Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. That law prohibited cities from imposing rent control on single-family homes and condominiums. Most importantly, newly built apartment buildings would be free from rent control. Moreover, once an existing tenant vacated a rent-controlled apartment, the rent could be reset to match market conditions. While too many other restrictions remained in place to fully address the housing shortage, it did help. More new apartments were built once developers knew they’d be free from rent control.

Until now, that is. In 2018, a group of activists tried to use a ballot measure to toss Costa-Hawkins and allow rent control to be imposed throughout the state. Fortunately, that proposal lost overwhelmingly, with 62% of California voters rejecting the new rent control scheme.

Now the same activists are back with a slightly scaled-back version. Once again, they want to toss Costa-Hawkins and make rent control safe for ambitious politicians. If they get away with it this time, it will make California’s housing crisis much worse than it already is.

Economists are in near-universal agreement on rent control: In a 2012 survey of professional economists, 98% agreed that rent control doesn’t work. By making housing shortages worse, rent control forces prices higher. Any benefit to those living in rent-controlled apartments is more than offset by higher housing costs for everyone else. Even left-leaning economist Paul Krugman warns of the perils of rent control, calling it “predictable” that in a rent-controlled environment there will be “sky-high rents on uncontrolled apartments, because desperate renters have nowhere to go—and the absence of new apartment construction, despite those high rents, because landlords fear that controls will be extended.”

A recent study of San Francisco, where  older apartments are largely free from the effects of Costa-Hawkins, found that rent control failed to keep costs low, and instead resulted in a net loss of affordable housing units. Again, this was predictable: When prices of any good are forced below the market price, the demand for the price-controlled good increases, while the incentive to supply that good decreases. A shortage develops.

And the Rental Affordability Act, if passed in November, will have precisely the same effect. We’re all familiar with the old saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” There’s no better illustration of that principle than this latest effort to dress up failed rent control schemes as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. Here’s hoping voters get the message and reject this poisonous ballot initiative, so we can focus on solutions that will actually improve the situation, like changes to zoning laws and regulatory reform that will allow for more new construction.

Pacific Legal Foundation article July 09, 2020 By JAMES BURLING

 

 

Opinion: Rebuilding economy will require rethinking government’s role

To better understand the recent surge of criticism and resistance against government-mandated lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, take a closer look at the Commerce Department jobs report published last week.

In April, the United States lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs, with the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 14.7 percent.

Those numbers suggest the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic response will be staggering. The losses will be compounded by the countless number of small businesses that will likely never reopen, diminished household incomes and savings, and massive public debt.

As the hard work of rebuilding the economy begins in the months to come, one lesson should be clear: The way forward will require government to get out of the way so that the private sector can focus on building, producing and innovating. And the most important contribution the government can make to the recovery is to reduce the senseless laws and regulations that restrain growth.

To be sure, the government has played a significant — though sometimes controversial — role in the pandemic response, through its power to coerce and restrain.

Imposing quarantines, shutting down businesses, sending stimulus checks and issuing stay-at-home orders are genuinely debatable steps, but perhaps they were necessary, at least in the short term, to address a public health emergency marked by unknown risks.

But we’ve also seen substantial evidence that the government’s regulatory powers have made things worse. Across a wide range of areas — restricting healthcare licensing regimes, barriers to entrepreneurship and misguided land use regulations — government policies are hurting more than they’re helping.

Right now, especially as states and localities begin phased reopenings, is an ideal time to rethink many of the policies that hold back growth and innovation. The organization I lead, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), published a report detailing four areas in which federal, state and local government leaders can help by simply getting out of the way.

First, it’s time to liberate the healthcare sector by ending counter-productive regulations.

For years, we’ve fought to end “certificate of need” laws, which prohibit healthcare providers from increasing the supply of services without permission from the government. These changes would bring more entrepreneurial energy into the healthcare sector, where such energy is desperately needed to respond to new challenges.

Likewise, PLF has called for easing the restrictions on healthcare professionals working across state lines and reforming licensing laws for healthcare workers, both of which would allow these vital service providers to adapt to changing conditions and shift resources to where the better belong.

Second, we’ve appealed to lawmakers to lift restrictions on entrepreneurship so that Americans can get back to work.

By reducing the burden of occupational licensing requirements, liberating freelancers and gig workers to pursue their chosen work, and lifting restrictions on home-based businesses, governments will unleash a wave of entrepreneurial energy that will make it easier for American workers to get back on their feet.

Third, PLF makes the case that protecting property rights are key to expanding economic opportunity.

Easing restrictive policies like occupancy restrictions, unnecessary limits on development and endless permit reviews will go a long way toward boosting the recovery, while at the same time addressing the need for more affordable housing. Sheltering in place, after all, requires shelter. In addition, we need to speed the ability to redevelop and repurpose shuttered offices, hotels, and other businesses.

Finally, we’ve advocated for reducing the role of administrative bureaucracy over American life.

While entrepreneurs and workers look to step up to create the new businesses and opportunities that will move the economy toward recovery, it’s time we diminish the power of regulators, rule makers and bureaucrats.

Reducing outdated and burdensome regulations, and restoring the constitutionally required separation of powers that limits government authority, will be critical steps in transferring more control and responsibility to the people, and away from Washington and state capitals.

The public health emergency we’re facing isn’t over, but we must begin thinking about what comes next.

The private sector will have to lead the way to get the economy back on its feet. Government at all levels — federal, state and local — should focus on doing what it can to step aside so that the nation’s entrepreneurial energies can be unleashed.

Otherwise, the coronavirus tragedy will be further compounded by economic disaster.

This op-ed was originally published by InsideSources on June 3, 2020.

Pacific Legal Foundation Op-Ed June 03, 2020  By STEVEN D. ANDERSON

Trump’s New ‘Navigable Waters’ Rule Is an Improvement, but Still Murky

The Trump administration published this spring its new definition of “navigable waters” (also known as “waters of the United States”) under the Clean Water Act.

The long-awaited action reversed course on decades of bureaucratic overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA’s partner in the abuse of property rights.

Those two agencies misused their Clean Water Act authority to control private property well beyond the limits set by the Constitution and congressional authorization. Those abuses culminated in a 2015 regulation by the Obama administration, widely referred to as the “waters of the United States” rule.

The new rule, published April 21, is a significant retreat from the extreme land grab that prior administrations carried out under the Clean Water Act. Fewer acres of remote or physically isolated wetlands will fall under EPA control. Fewer homebuilders will need the Army Corps of Engineers’ permission to provide housing. Continue reading

The Government-Created Housing Shortage

The American spirit is synonymous with a can-do attitude—we are builders, creators, and innovators. The remarkable construction of New York’s legendary Empire State Building symbolizes that spirit: from start to finish, the completion of this American landmark took a single year.

But that spirit now seems diminished. Many U.S. cities face a housing shortage thanks to prohibitive and heavy-handed regulations pushed by local governments—and the shortage has pushed median rents and purchase prices too high for ordinary incomes to afford.

The way to make housing more affordable is to build more housing. Americans of yesteryear could have made short work of the problem: build, baby, build!  But as PLF’s cases show, property owners and developers today must navigate a minefield of land-use regulations that stymie or punish development. The result? Dwindling new construction of homes, higher costs, and, ultimately, stagnation.

Consider a few examples:

  • For years, PLF litigated against “urban growth boundaries” in Seattle, which constrained the supply of housing by effectively prohibiting homebuilding beyond a politically-established ring drawn on a map around the city.
  • Or PLF’s recent case involving small developers Jonathan and Shelah Lehrer-Graiwer in West Hollywood, California. They bought several lots with older single-family homes, which they wanted to demolish and replace with an 11-unit condominium complex. City officials welcomed the project because it increased the housing supply. The city then demanded an extraordinary fee of more than a half million dollars as a condition of the building permit to subsidize a government-run affordable housing program.
  • Or consider a case out of Berkeley, California, where the city blocked the construction of a large, modern apartment building by abusing an “historical preservation” ordinance to prohibit the property owner from first razing a smaller, aging apartment building. The city justified its decision on the grounds that it was important to preserve the last wood-shingle-sided apartment building in the city.

These anecdotes merely hint at the gauntlet property owners face today when exercising their right to build on their own land.

Cities and counties throughout the country routinely require lot sizes of one, five, or even more acres per home; they demand the dedication of free “open space”; they prohibit multi-family housing in large segments of a community; they demand all manner of studies, fees, and restrictions under the guise of environmental restrictions with dubious connection to public health or safety; and they wield zoning ordinances so detailed that they effectively allow the government to control the style, building materials, and even landscaping of every home proposed.

In New York, an estimated 40 percent of today’s buildings could not be built again under the state’s complicated and prohibitive land-use laws. Some of America’s most loved historic neighborhoods in other large cities, like the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Boston’s Beacon Hill, or New Orleans’ French Quarter are effectively outlawed in our modern regulatory state. Beyond cities, many suburban land-use policies are arguably worse, as the cases of Seattle and West Hollywood above suggest.

All this has the predictable result of creating skyrocketing prices in the most regulated cities. Prohibitive local regulations act like a tax, sometimes adding 50 percent or more to housing prices, according to Wharton economist Joseph Gyorko. Left-leaning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out that California’s high housing prices “owe a lot to policies that sharply limit construction.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Houston, Texas, for instance—one of America’s largest and fastest growing cities—has one of the nation’s most lightly-regulated housing markets, allowing for an orderly but relatively free market in housing production.

Many people today find their budgets stretched to put a roof over their head—maybe including you or your children or your grandchildren—and can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods where they grew up. The root of that problem is regulation, which needlessly limits the supply and raises the cost of housing. The only long-term solution lies in respect for property rights and a renewal of the American spirit of building.

Pacific Legal Foundation Article  of April 07, 2020 By LARRY SALZMAN

 

 

 

Mar 30: EPA withdraws compliance order against Sacketts

Washington, D.C.; March 30, 2020: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally withdrawn an administrative compliance order it issued in 2007 against Michael and Chantell Sackett, removing the threat of crushing fines that the couple has lived under for more than a decade.

The EPA accused the couple of illegally filling a wetland under the Clean Water Act when they broke ground to build their house in a residential neighborhood near Priest Lake, Idaho. The EPA also told the Sacketts that no home could be built on the lot, despite never establishing that the lot is a wetland under congressionally mandated criteria.

The Sacketts have spent the past 12 years fighting the EPA in federal courts — including at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Sacketts are relieved that the EPA removed its years-long threat of ruinous penalties against them,” said Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Tony Francois. “This case is a dramatic illustration of how heavily the bureaucratic hand of the administrative state can fall on ordinary Americans. One day the Sacketts were trying to build a house in a residential neighborhood; the next, they were facing fines of up to $75,000 per day. The Sacketts’ resolve and perseverance in this case is admirable.”

Despite the welcome news, an important detail remains unresolved: whether the Sacketts can now build on the lot.

“While the compliance order is withdrawn, it’s not clear whether the Sacketts can build anything without permission from the EPA. The EPA’s determination that the Sacketts’ vacant lot is a federally regulated wetland appears to remain in effect,” Francois explained. “We will ask the Court of Appeals to resolve that question in the Sacketts’ favor if EPA won’t clarify it. Otherwise, the Sacketts remain under the threat of future enforcement action or a citizen suit if they proceed to build on the lot.”

Pacific Legal Foundation Article

EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Regulations on Clean Water

Previous administration expanded oversight to protect water quality from industrial pollution; Trump administration promised to correct overreach.

President Trump’s administration has rescinded an Obama-era policy that expanded federal oversight and the threat of steep fines for polluting the country’s smaller waterways, furthering his deregulatory efforts in the 14 months that remain before the next election.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday signed a final rule that limits the scope of federal clean-water regulations in an effort to clear up confusion for landowners whose property sits near water sources that feed into the country’s network of major rivers.

The Obama administration in 2015 had expanded federal oversight upstream, it said, to better protect wildlife and the country’s drinking-water supply from industrial runoff and pollution. Mr. Wheeler called that expansion an overreach, saying it grew to cover dry land in some cases.

Farmers, property developers, chemical manufacturers and oil-and-gas producers—some of whom are key voter groups for the 2020 election—have voiced opposition to it, with many saying it overreached by intruding on property owners’ rights.

Court battles following the Obama-era rule have led to fractured rules across the country. Amid the legal challenges, the regulation is in place only in 22 states, though the Trump administration’s decision could spark its own series of court fights.

The rule finalized on Thursday restores regulatory text that existed before the 2015 rule. Property that is no longer covered by the 1972 Clean Water Act remains protected by state rules. Major waterways, such as most rivers and lakes, were already under protection of the Clean Water Act and still will be after the rollback.

“Our revised and more precise definition will mean that farmers, property owners and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Critics of the reversal on Thursday warned that it will jeopardize citizens’ health and generate environmental cleanup costs paid for by taxpayers. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D., Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment that oversees the EPA Clean Water Act, called the move the “latest evidence of the president’s utter disregard and contempt for science.”

“Winners are corporations and polluters. Losers are families, farmers, and taxpayers,” she said in a statement.

President Trump has long promised to roll back environmental regulations he considers too restrictive. At a press conference on Thursday, Mr. Wheeler said the 2015 rule “was at the top of the list” of regulations that the president aimed to eliminate. Soon after his election, President Trump directed EPA officials to work on restoring earlier rules.

The Clean Water Act’s reach has expanded over time, including under the 2015 rule, to smaller ponds, tributaries and streams that flow only after heavy rains, Mr. Wheeler said. The expansion has meant that more landowners need to apply for permits or face steep fines.

“As the scope expands, so too does Washington’s power over private property,” Mr. Wheeler said on Thursday.

Office of Management and Budget acting Director Russ Vought said the move is part of the administration’s “effort to remove regulations that put absurd government standards on the American people.”

In recent weeks the administration has been strongly considering isolating a challenge to California authority from the rest of its new vehicle-efficiency rules. In June, EPA finalized climate rules for power plants without revising its standards for certain reviews of those plants—changes it once considered a linchpin of the policy but then promised would have to come later.

The Obama revisions gave the federal government oversight of some ditches and shallow wetlands that could carry pollution downstream, which the Obama administration estimated would improve drinking water for more than 100 million Americans.

But since that rule’s introduction, critics said it intruded on property owners’ rights and impeded economic growth.

National Association of Home Builders Chief Legal Officer James Rizzo said Thursday that the eased regulations come at an important time when the country faces a shortage of affordable housing. Roughly 25% of every dollar spent on a new U.S. home accounts for regulatory-compliance costs, he said.

“The old water rule, which sought to regulate dry land, was confusing and counterproductive,” said Jay Timmons, leader of the National Association of Manufacturers, which has been a major participant in industry’s legal challenges.

Wall Street Journal Article by  Katy Derek and Timothy Puko

 

 

 

 

Reform the Endangered Species Act by respecting property rights

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the nation’s most popular and powerful environmental law. There has been much discussion (and disagreement) over whether the law is a success or failure. On the one hand, almost no protected species have gone extinct since the ESA was enacted. On the other hand, equally few species have fully recovered. In fact, less than 3% of protected species have achieved recovery.

So why have so few animals recovered under the ESA? Too little regard for property rights.

By respecting property rights more, this 45-year-old law can better serve landowners and wildlife advocates alike.

The ESA imposes burdensome regulations on property owners whose land provides habitat for rare species and threatens massive fines or criminal prosecution for many ordinary land-use activities. Instead of incentivizing landowners to help recover an endangered species, the ESA punishes them for accommodating species. According to scholars across the political spectrum, this encourages landowners to preemptively destroy habitat when we should be encouraging habitat restoration.

To understand how the ESA creates these perverse incentives, we must understand what happens when a species is listed under the Act.

Continue reading

Widlife Corridors Conservation Act

THE WILDLIFE CORRIDORS CONSERVATION ACT – What You Need to Know

The 2019 Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act.(WCCA) is perhaps the most significant attack on private property rights in decades, perhaps ever.  A simple look at the list of sponsors of the proposed legislation provides plenty of warning about what this new law portends.

The WCCA was  introduced in Congress in May 2019. In the Senate, the bill is being led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and was cosponsored by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D- NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen  Don Beyer  (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL).

REWILDING advocates and their minions in Congress  are ecstatic over what this “ACT” will lead to once it is enacted.  Don’t be fooled folks! This legislation doesn’t SAVE wildlife!  Non-endangered species such as grizzly bears and wolves don’t need your private property or more Federal land to survive. Continue reading

Clean Water Act Violation Conviction Vacated

July 10, 2019: Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of Navy veteran Joe Robertson, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $130,000 in fines after he dug fire-fighting ponds near his home in Montana. Sadly, Joe passed away in March, but his wife, Carri Robertson, continued his legal battle.

“We are very pleased that the Ninth Circuit agreed that Joe’s convictions should be vacated and very pleased for Carri, who will no longer have a $130,000 federal judgment hanging over her head,” said Tony Francois, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “It has been an honor to represent Joe and now to be able to complete his vindication on behalf of his wife, Carri.”

Federal regulators said that Robertson polluted a “navigable water” — a small ditch with a trickle of water — when he dug the ponds. The Environmental Protection Agency said the ditch was a federally protected waterway under the Clean Water Act and required a federal permit — even though his home is 40 miles from the nearest navigable waterway.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Joe Robertson’s petition to review his Clean Water Act convictions, and immediately vacated the Ninth Circuit’s judgment in the case and sent it back to the Ninth Circuit for further review.

Pacific Legal Foundation Press Release