People like to say that the Do Nothing Congress generally lives up to its name, but this week the House of Representatives actually managed to get together and pass something. H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, somehow got to the floor for a vote and even garnered the support of 35 Democrats in addition to nearly all the Republicans. The subject at hand is the perennial thorn in the side of regulatory hawks, the Clean Water Act (CWA).
While it originally had fairly benign stated intentions – to control pollution and obstruction in the nations navigable waters – the CWA has turned into a powerful tool for green warriors to expand Uncle Sam’s control of all manner of things, generally to the detriment of the nation’s farmers and private property owners. In the latest go round, the EPA proposes to expand the definition of “waters of the United States” to include essentially any pool of water big enough for a dog to take a drink out of or a bird to have a bath. This bill seeks to put a leash on the EPA in this regard.
U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, on Wednesday hailed House passage of legislation that would limit what he called overreach by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“Redefining the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ is a dangerous expansion of government authority,” Collins said. “I have heard from many farmers and small business owners in my district who believe the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers rule will have a devastating effect on their productivity and ability to stay in business.”
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Richard Hanna (R-NY22), explained why he was on board.
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers are seeking to broaden federal regulations that would negatively impact local farmers and small businesses, including homebuilders and contractors, by expanding the definition of the term “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act. The impact of this scheme would be to dramatically expand the reach of the EPA into state and local water issues.
The proposed rule would redefine the scope of federal power under the Clean Water Act, creating jurisdiction over almost all physical areas with a connection to downstream navigable waters. This would put features such as ditches, natural or man-made ponds, flood plains, and prairie potholes, among others, under federal control. I believe it would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions and is based on incomplete scientific and economic analyses.
Granting the federal government even more regulatory power in any area would be a tough sell these days, and for good reason. But the EPA in particular has been running roughshod over property owners for a long time using the CWA and handing them an even larger caliber weapon in this area should be a non-starter. Of course, liberal activists are quick to claim that this is just a better, more scientific definition of “water” (why do you people hate science?) and want to see it passed. But that won’t sit well with voters such as the Sackett family in Idaho who were facing fines of up to $75,000 per day for trying to build their home – on their own property – because a swampy patch of it was considered “wetlands.”
Of course, in order to get this through, Harry Reid will need to be forced to bring it to a vote in the Senate. This close to an election I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. Not even the Sackett’s ranch.