The signing of two executive orders by President Donald Trump on Wednesday stands to benefit a Fairbanks man who has been wrapped up in long-term legal struggles with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding what constitutes protected wetlands when it comes to permafrost in the local area.
The executive orders seek to add levels of transparency to government agency regulations.
Richard Schok, owner of Flowline Alaska Inc., has been embroiled in legal battles with state agencies over business construction regulations for nearly a decade, he told the president Wednesday in Washington.
The case Schok refers to is Tin Cup, LLC. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The case, which ultimately was ruled in favor of the Corps, sought clarity and declaratory judgement on whether Schok was able to build business facilities on an area with permafrost that was technically designated as wetlands. Schok’s hope was that the Corps would heed a 1987 statute regarding wetlands regulations, while the Corps pushed that an 1993 appropriations act did not require its adherence to the 1987 wetlands statutes.
“We spent the better part of 10 years and over $300,000 fighting with the regulatory agencies over the arbitrary and capricious nature of the Army Corps of Engineers wetlands designation and other use of the Alaska supplement versus the 1987 congressionally mandated wetlands manual,” Schok said. “The last straw for us was when we lost our appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court, when they held that the agencies can make the regulations they want and require without congressional approval and oversight.”
While the courts ruled against Schok in Tin Cup, he said Wednesday’s executive orders could benefit others like him.
“I’m hopeful that the changes made today with this executive order (that) other landowners will not be negatively impacted as we have been,” he said in a short speech at the White House.
Schok was unable to be reached for direct comment, but a close colleague noted that, while the Tin Cup ruling concluded the case, there’s no telling whether Schok could reappeal.
Either way, the orders could change the way cases such as Tin Cup are approached, something Schok said he was thankful for.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMpolitics