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Sacketts tell panel about EPA woe

Thu., March 1, 2012

Republicans hear matters related to federal control

WASHINGTON – A North Idaho couple took their fight against the Environmental Protection Agency to Congress this week, saying the federal government is destroying people’s lives.

Mike and Chantell Sackett, of Priest Lake, were blocked from building a house on their land because the EPA said the property contains wetlands. They contend it doesn’t, and their case was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court in January.

The Sacketts told a panel of Republican senators and representatives who are part of the Western Caucus that their story is an example of how federal restrictions can hurt individuals.

They contend the agency never gave them a written explanation for why they couldn’t build their house.

“Chantell and I are fighting for ourselves. But, bigger than that, we are fighting for everyone in this country who owns property, large or small,” Sackett said. “We believe property owners have constitutional rights, and EPA should not be able to get away with destroying people’s lives, jobs and the economy while answering to nobody but itself.”

The EPA declined to comment on the case because it’s in court.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter told the panel, hosted this week by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, about other conflicts between local and state governments and the federal government over such things as managing wolves, weed control and sheep grazing. Otter called for more local control and flexibility on federal rules.

“The United States government owns 63.8 percent of all the land in Idaho and manages nearly three-quarters of Idaho’s forests,” he said.

“The federal impact on Idaho is vast.”

Kansas rancher Mark Knight, a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, argued the EPA’s current farm-dust standard is too low. Many farms cannot meet it and would have to install multimillion-dollar sprinkler systems to keep down dust, he said.

Buster Johnson, chairman of the Mohave County, Ariz., Board of Supervisors, complained the U.S. Department of Interior blocked uranium mining on 1 million acres in Arizona, affecting more than 1,000 jobs.

Phoebe Zhang, a graduate student with the University of Missouri Journalism School’s Washington, D.C., program, is a correspondent for The Spokesman-Review.

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