Sen. Rand Paul's focus on property rights -- and the EPA's assault on those rights -- is reflected in his press release today on The Supreme Court's opinion in Sackett v. EPA. In that opinion, the high court (9-0) "provided some measure of relief to those who wish to challenge the heavy-handed enforcement of an out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency," according to Paul.
Paul, through his release, notes:
“From this point forward, citizens like the Sacketts will be able to challenge the EPA in court before huge fines and other actions are levied against them,” Sen. Paul said. “This sends a resounding message to the Administration that ever-expanding bureaucracy and regulations cannot continue to go unchecked. I will continue to fight to rein in the EPA, and today’s decision is heartening that we will succeed.”
The court did not however take a stand against the larger abuses of the EPA. Rather, in a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito specifically called on Congress to fix the law and clarify the definition of navigable waters, stating that “only clarification of the reach of the Clean Water Act can rectify the underlying problem.”
Paul's take on Sackett echos some thoughts he gave the Louisville Lawyers' Chapter of the Federalist Society last month. Paul complained that the EPA has made it impossible form miners to comply with the Clean Water Act, by asserting that intermittent rain run-off is a navigable stream for purposes of the Clean Water Act. Likewise, Kentucky businesses have been subjected to the Clean Water Act for rain fun-off from the roof of small businesses. That makes no sense, Paul said, and is not within Congress's authority to regulate.
Even though today's decision is largely procedural, Paul's focus on property rights is well-placed. The right to own and develop property is a core freedom in a democracy, going back to the Magna Carta. It's what distinguishes us from serfs. Indeed, much of the intellectual energy that led to our nation's founding stems from the writings of John Locke regarding property rights. So this is an area of law and public policy that constitutional conservatives should monitor closely.