EPA’s Watershed Power Grab Bad News
Two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Scott Perry appeared in Harrisburg to rally local citizens against attempts by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency to implement the major provisions of failed legislation by regulatory means, a massive power grab with frightening implications.
Toomey and Perry are right to be alarmed. We all should be.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to rewrite the original Clean Water Act of 1972 and overthrow U.S. Supreme Court decisions from 2001 and 2006 which limited federal land jurisdiction to navigable waters.
The American media have largely ignored the implications of its power grab since the EPA made its first announcement in 2011:
"Recognizing the importance of clean water and healthy watersheds to our economy, environment and communities, the Obama administration released a national clean water framework today that showcases its comprehensive commitment to protecting the health of America’s waters."
The Obama administration would have us believe it to be concerned about water quality, but the real issues are land, power and central control.
If implemented, EPA guidelines will allow unelected agency bureaucrats to unilaterally decide the extent of their jurisdiction over every body of water of any size and eventually result in binding regulations that will affect everyone.
The EPA’s intentions have their origin in HR 2421, the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007, when Congress was controlled by Democrats. The bill’s sponsors were primarily among the most progressive members of the House representing the safest liberal districts.
The bill was written to give the Army Corps of Engineers and, especially, the EPA control of all American watersheds.
Since all land is in a watershed, the result would have put national land use policy in the hands of the central government.
The legislation would have expanded the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act of 1972 to include all waters of the United States and all "activities affecting these waters."
In addition to private property, the legislation had implications for communities, businesses, agriculture, forestry, open grazing land, energy production and mining. In short, the bill would have permitted the government the power to regulate any use of private and federal land for almost any purpose.
But even Democrats didn’t like that outcome, so the bill was referred to, and never emerged from, a committee controlled by the Democratic majority.
It was never voted upon, so it never became law. That’s because at the end of each two-year session of Congress, all proposed bills and resolutions that haven’t passed are cleared from the books.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The Obama administration recognizes no legislative or constitutional boundaries to their ambitions.
Legislators often reintroduce legislation in subsequent sessions of Congress. but, the Obama administration has not asked compliant congressional allies to reintroduce a bill.
Instead, the EPA is attempting to preserve, through bureaucratic overreach, the threat to private property rights embedded in the ill-fated Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007.
In a 2007 statement on the bill, The Texas Wildlife Association wrote: If the word "navigable" is removed, all waters within the United States, including stock ponds, intermittent streams and ephemeral puddles, will be subject to federal law and regulation. This is an obvious intrusion on the states’ rights and individual property rights.
The EPA’s ambitions are bad policy — bad for business, bad for agriculture, bad for energy development, and bad for constitutionally-guaranteed property rights and personal liberties.
Largely due to government policies, food prices are already reaching record levels. Allowing the federal government further regulatory control of agricultural enterprises and assets will surely make bad situations even worse.
The EPA has allowed a comment period, after which it means to impose the guidelines. Citizens should urge members of Congress in both houses to reclaim its legislative prerogatives and rein in EPA overreach.
There is but one potential upside to the EPA’s usurpation of power. If your yard has one or more low spots which retain rainwater, theoretically the EPA could declare your property a wetland and prohibit mowing to preserve "aquatic ecosystems."
Then, when your township attempts to enforce its weed ordinance, you can refer local authorities to the EPA. Let them duke it out.