Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for what they call an “unprecedented” water rights power grab that could affect the private property of millions of Americans.
The text in the new Clean Water Act guidelines draft may allow the EPA to control ditches, gullies and spots where moisture is found on purely a seasonal basis. If the federal agency decides that water virtually anywhere has an impact on navigable waterways, they are prepared to take charge. Temporary or seasonal water spots are frequently created by melting snow of hard rains.
The EPA released its proposed guidelines in September, noting that streams, “regardless of their size or how frequently they flow” are “connected to and have important effects on downstream waters.” The proposal further said that wetlands and open-waters in floodplains of streams and rivers “are integrated with streams and rivers.”
The rare bipartisan angst at the EPA power grab shows that the agency may have gone too far in threatening property rights. Republican Florida Representative John Mica (chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) West Virginia Democratic Representative Nick Rahall (ranking committee member) and Republican Ohio Representative Bob Gibbs (chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment) released a statement which said, “Never in the history of the CWA has federal regulation defined ditches and other upland features as waters of the United States.” In the same letter to their House of Representative peers the men deemed the EPA water rights stance an absolute “expansion of federal jurisdiction.”
The EPA worked in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers to create the new Clean Water Act guidelines.
Representative John Mica told Human Events:
“The Obama administration is doing everything in its power to increase costs and regulatory burdens for American businesses, farmers and individual property owners. This federal jurisdiction grab has been opposed by Congress for years, and now the administration and its agencies are ignoring law and rulemaking procedures in order to tighten their regulatory grip over every water body in the country. But this administration needs to realize it is not above the law.”
A bipartisan House bill to combat the EPA is cosponsored by members of both parties and carries 64 signatures. A companion piece of legislation in the Senate has six cosponsors.
US Senator John Brasso (R.-Wyo.) said:
“President Obama’s EPA continues to act as if it is above the law. It is using this overreaching guidance to pre-empt state and local governments, farmers and ranchers, small business owners and homeowners from making local land and water use decisions. Our bill will stop this unprecedented Washington power grab and restore Americans’ property rights.”
The EPA says it wants to protect pollution from feeding into larger bodies of water.
Elected officials opposed to the new Clean Water Act guidelines reportedly feel that the jurisdictional boundaries are being increased in an effort to maximize the amount of EPA control. Legislators such as Representative Lamar Smith (R.-Texas) want to see the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board – made of up outsiders – review the proposal.
“The [proposal] could be used to expand EPA’s control far beyond interstate waters, stripping away the power of states and allowing the EPA to regulate virtually every mud puddle in America,” Lamar Smith said. “The EPA should slow down, and allow a full and fair review of the study in context by the public and independent scientists.”