Sackett v. EPA
The Environmental Law Clinic took part in a recent Supreme Court case: Sackett v. EPA. The Environmental Law Clinic helped with research and drafting for an amicus brief for the defense. The amicus brief, written primarily by lawyers from the National Resources Defense Counsel, sought to support EPA’s position with regard to the true facts of the case, and the potential environmental consequences of the Court’s decision.
The case involved an Idaho couple who sought to fill in parts of their Priest Lake property, which the EPA determined qualified as Clean Water act protected wetlands. Thus, the Sacketts were illegally filling in wetlands without the appropriate permit and were subject to fines. In court, the Sacketts challenged the EPAs determination of their property as wetlands and the EPAs ability to fine them for not following Clean Water Act requirements. The case was heard in the Supreme Court in January and a decision should be issued late March or early April.
Coeur d’Alene Levees
The Gonzaga University Environmental Law Clinic is currently representing Kootenai Environmental Alliance (“KEA”) in a National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) challenge against the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”). KEA is challenging an action by the Corps requiring the removal of all trees on the Rosenberry Levee located on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The Rosenberry Levee is home to over 500 mature trees that will be cut down as a result of the Corps’ new policy. On behalf of KEA, the Environmental Law Clinic is requesting that the Corps comply with NEPA and conduct an environmental study on the impacts of removing all vegetation from the Rosenberry Levee and levees nationwide.
Local Citizens, along with KEA, adamantly oppose the removal of the Rosenberry Levee trees. Reasons for opposition include the aesthetic value of the trees on the Levee and large costs incurred by the city of Coeur d’Alene in removing the trees.
Rick Eichstaedt, Environmental Clinic Supervisor, is the attorney representing KEA. Current interns Adam Gleason and Colin McHugh are assisting with the case. Previous interns Derek Leuzzi and Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin assisted on the case.
Protecting Local Land Use
Gonzaga University’s Environmental Law Clinic participated in a public hearing on behalf of Futurewise on January 26, 2012. John Norris, a student intern in the environmental clinic provided comments on behalf of Futurewise opposing Spokane County’s proposed plans to expand the Urban Growth Area. The Urban Growth Area in essence is used to encourage smart growth. Futurewise opposes the proposed plans for expansion because it alleges that the UGA is already too large as a result of over-estimated future population growth. In particular, Futurewise felt that the expansion would cost taxpayers and ratepayers because areas included in the proposed expansions would require essential services.
Clean Water Act Cases
Gonzaga’s Environmental Law clinic uses Clean Water Act citizen suits to ensure that pollution sources have proper discharge permits and actually comply with those permits. In some cases, Clean Water Act violators may not even be aware they are not in compliance. Occasionally, the Environmental Law clinic settle these type cases and can help violators understand what they were doing wrong, and how they can remain in compliance with the Clean Water Act in the future.