By Investor’s Business Daily Editorial Board | Investors.com
Regulatory Excess: How much more control does the EPA want over an ostensibly free America? Given that it’s set its sights on rain-swelled ditches and soggy gullies, it seems there are no limits to its confiscatory ambition.
Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency have authority over the navigable waters of the U.S. But apparently that isn’t enough for this administration. It wants more private land to fall under federal control.
Both the EPA, which has launched the Obama administration’s war on coal, and the Army Corps of Engineers want to expand the definition of waters that would be under their regulatory boot. It looks like a scheme that will give them dominion over anything that’s already wet — and anything that might become so. We don’t exaggerate the plan’s potential intrusiveness.
"The EPA is proposing that puddles, ponds, ditches, ephemerals and isolated wetlands fall under the Clean Water Act and expand the regulatory authority to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," the Journal Gazette & Times Courier, which serves an agricultural community in Illinois, reported last week.
On Friday, Iowa Farmer Today noted that under the agencies’ proposal, "any area of your field or yard that may see standing water, even if it’s for a short period, could be considered navigable waters subject to federal jurisdiction."
What, then, would be the practical effects of such an arrangement? Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, has thought that through.
"No matter that your back yard or field was dry seven days a week for the past 20 years, if a 5-inch rainfall suddenly left a puddle or a slowing stream, the EPA, according to this new 370-page ‘rule,’ might consider it ‘navigable’ or a Waters of the U.S.," Hill explained in Iowa Farmer Today.
"That means you would have to ask the federal agencies to find out if it’s ‘navigable’ or apply for federal permits — working through additional government red tape to build a terrace in your field, construct a waterway, apply fertilizer, or even plant a tree on your land.
"Want to build a fence or spray for weeds? Now, you’ll need a federal permit! What’s more, you could be subjected to a $37,500-per-day fine if you’re not in compliance."
A government that already owns 28% to 30% of America’s 2.27 billion acres — and 52% of Western lands — doesn’t need to control more. Yet here is Washington wanting to put more soil under its command.
This is not a new initiative. The federal government has been lusting after private property for years and plotting to get it under the Clean Water Act. House Agricultural Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., was concerned three years ago that the government would eventually "regulate essentially any body of water, such as a farm pond or even a ditch."
Even earlier, during the first year of the Obama administration, the Democratic Senate wanted to remove "navigable" from the definition of water that the federal government has authority over.
This caused Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming to worry that "farmers who have mud puddles, prairie potholes" and melting snow on their land would have the federal government treading all over them.
Last week, the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing on the administration’s intention to extend its regulatory grasp through the Clean Water Act.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., called it "another example of a disturbing pattern of an imperial presidency" and expressed alarm that "the federal government’s reach into our everyday lives will adversely affect the nation’s economy, threaten jobs, invite costly litigation, and restrict the rights of landowners."
Not that the Obama administration and the voracious federal government would care about such things, but Shuster is right. The expansion of the federal regulatory sweep via the Clean Water Act would have toxic consequences across the board. America would be less America and more Washington.
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