Supreme Court Allows Immediate Challenges to Environmental Compliance Orders in Sackett v. EPA
March 27, 2012
BY DAVID M. METRES
On March 21, 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, holding that a compliance order issued under the Clean Water Act ("the Act") constitutes a "final agency action" and that recipients of these orders may immediately file suit challenging such orders under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). The decision repudiates the position of the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") that the targets of such orders must wait until EPA decides to enforce the order before seeking judicial review.
The ruling not only means that recipients of compliance orders can seek judicial review immediately, it will also cause the EPA to develop more robust enforcement cases before issuing compliance orders so that such orders are able to withstand judicial scrutiny. The implications of this ruling will also likely reach into other administrative contexts (both environmental and otherwise) and enable regulated entities to challenge regulatory actions sooner.