EPA’s Regulatory Trickle

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at it again!

On April 27, 2011, the EPA put forward a rule that would lead to a massive expansion of their ability to regulate businesses and individuals. This intrusion comes in the form of a seemingly simple redefinition of a phrase, but that definition has massive implications.

The EPA has decided to expand its definition of “navigable waters” in the new rule. It would subject countless new waterways to their regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CAA) creating a massive barrier to economic development and activity in these areas.

The new jurisdictional guidance document expands the EPA’s regulatory power to intrastate and incredibly minor water sources. The impetus for this, of course, is not that states are somehow mismanaging their waterways, but the expansion of federal control of the economy in order to achieve the administrations radical environmental ends. Businesses and individuals along these waterways subjected to this new jurisdictional guidance will face federal mandates from the EPA and an extensive permitting process for any activity they are undertaking that may affect the waterway.

Worse still is that Americans will be further subjected to criminal sections of the Clean Water Act under this expanded regulatory regime for acting in a way that is barred in the reams of regulation that emerge from the EPA and is not inherently wrong. Even under the previous rules, job creators were going to federal prison for Clean Water Act violations such as in this Georgia case linked here.

Not even a good faith attempt to comply with a Clean Water Act permit was enough to save the individual in that case from nearly four years in prison for merely releasing some wastewater into a creek. Violent felons have been known to go to jail for less time than that. But, this problem will only be exacerbated by this expansion on EPA control.

Fortunately for everyone with so much as an occasional trickle running through their backyard, Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) have introduced an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill (HR 2354) which would prevent funding in FY 2012 for the implementation of this new rule.

This amendment would not permanently solve the problem, but it would importantly provide relief for a year from its job killing effects and allow conservatives a chance to stifle this federal overreach permanently come 2013. Everyone can agree that clean water is not a resource that should be exploited, but neither should the government exploit reasonable protections on that resource to achieve their narrow ideological ends.

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