Republican lawmakers joined farmers and land developers to discourage the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from asserting a proposed rule which will increase its regulatory authority over the nation’s streams and wetlands.
“It’s the most breathtaking power grab I’ve seen in a long time,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, (R-PA). In a letter from Toomey and signed by 14 other GOP Senators, they declared that the proposed rule hurts economic activity and oversteps legal bounds. At issue is the federal Clean Water Act, which grants the EPA authority to regulate “U.S. waters.”
Two Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 restricted the EPA’s ability to regulate isolated ponds or marshes with no direct connection to navigable waterways. The EPA now wants to expand pollution regulations to include the country’s so-called “intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands,” which are created during wet seasons, or merely after it rains, but are temporary. As Breitbart News contributor Charles Hurt pointed out in one of his recent “Nuclear Option” columns, just having a pond on one’s property can subject landowners to enormous fines by the EPA. Moreover, Hurt asserted that the EPA has its own propensity for polluting our waterways.
The American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the proposed rule will create much uncertainty because it subjects farmers to potential regulation if water pools on their private land after a rainfall. Moreover, it gives the federal government authority over creeks and even ditches that are miles away from “navigable waters.” For instance, an intermittent pond formed by rainfall which contained fertilizer or pest control chemicals could be subject to anti-pollution regulations.
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) introduced appropriations language this week aimed at blocking the rule entirely. Stockman said that farmers can apply for exemptions, but they must engage in a “conversion practice” that complies with Natural Resources Conservation Services standards. “Once the landowner completes the conservation practice or changes the use of his land, he loses his EPA exemption and must now comply with a new, and more complex, set of rules,” Stockman said. “In other words, the only way a farmer or rancher can exempt himself from the EPA rule is to adhere to a mountain of other new federal rules.”
The proposed regulation is strongly endorsed by environmental groups and is at the heart of the Obama Administration’s strategy for the 2014 midterm elections. President Obama has promised to use his executive “pen” as needed to ram through environmental and climate change protections.