California firefighters are battling the largest, deadliest, and most destructive wildfire in state history, and while politicians and activists blame climate change for the this and other massive fires, critics argue that federal policies designed to protect the environment are actually leaving the land and the people at greater risk for devastation.
Pacific Legal Foundation is representing a 77-year-old Montana man and his wife who are being severely punished for taking fire prevention efforts on their own land.
“To protect his property, he dug out several ponds in the stream of this very tiny mountain trickle that comes down from the watershed just about 2,000 feet above him,” said Pacific Legal Foundation Attorney Ethan Blevins. “So he dug out these ponds so that he would have water on hand should something happen.”
Something happened, all right. The federal government dropped the legal and regulatory hammer on Robertson.
“Federal law enforcement shows up and says this little trickle of water that’s about the combined forces of two or three garden hoses is a navigable waterway under the Clean Water Act. By digging out these ponds, you’ve discharged pollutants into the stream in the form of soil and rocks and so forth,” said Blevins.
Robertson was sentenced to 18 months in prison and forced to pay $130,000 in restitution.
Pacific Legal Foundation is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case render a verdict on what Blevins considers vague language. In a previous ruling on the Clean Water Act, recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy issues a very broad definition of a navigable waterway, stating that any water with a “significant nexus” to a traditionally navigable waterway ought to be regulated.
Blevins wants to know what the court considers to be a “significant nexus.” He is hoping the court will hear the case and schedule arguments for early next year.
“We think it’s unconstitutionally vague or at minimum the Supreme Court needs to provide some really clear guidance on what the Clean Water Act requires of people.
Listen to the full podcast to hear how the federal government is also tying the hands of states amidst their fire prevention efforts.