Supreme Court Property Rights Case Has Environmental Implications

October 14, 2009

A proposal to replenish beach sand in Florida has morphed into a Supreme Court case about property rights that could have numerous national environmental implications. The Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Dec. 2, 2009. Media coverage has already begun.

The case, which started with legal action in 2004, involves a dispute over restoration of a stretch of Florida panhandle beaches damaged by storms. As part of that project, the state was planning to add sand inland from its official erosion control line, which would have placed that previously private land under state ownership, per state law.

Several private landowners and advocacy organizations filed suit against this form of what they interpret as a regulatory taking. That spurred many government organizations and advocacy groups, and even some private property groups, to take stands supporting the state's actions. State District and Supreme courts have made opposing decisions on the case. The US Supreme Court agreed in June 2009 to take it on.

Many facets of regulatory takings, including state and federal roles, have been fodder for ardent debate for several decades. Many of the situations have involved environmental issues. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules in this case, and the specifics of the ruling, the outcome could set the stage for interpretation of regulatory takings law for years to come.

Information sources:

For one media perspective on the case, see:

For many more resources, see the TipSheet of June 24, 2009.