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Another overreach by the EPA

Updated on June 5, 2015


The EPA is at it again along with the Army Corps of Engineers in a move to bring all water resources under the jurisdiction of the EPA. The method being used which is not yet in effect is redefining the term navigational waters. This new rule would bring all streams event those on private property under their jurisdiction. The problem with this involves the fact that Congress has not given this government entity this broad of scope in their authority.

One of the problems with this proposed action which must be stopped by Congress is the method being used. Executive departments have the power and authority to make definitions regarding their responsibilities. The key point to make with regards to this proposed change in definition is that it expands the reach of this agency to regulate private property which in the past has been left to the states. I am all for protecting the environment and having clean water resources but the definition being identified does not have evidence to support the change.

It is the responsibility of Congress to control the actions of government departments and agencies and there is a move in the Senate to take action against this latest proposed overreach of the EPA. Last month, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation to prevent the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from dramatically and illegally expanding federal power to regulate water and land use under the Clean Water Act. The title of this legislation is Preserve the waters of the U.S. Act. Changing the definition of navigational waters can have far reaching impact including restricting private property owner’s use of their own land. One attempt in 2005 involved the agency declaring the private property of a couple in Idaho to be a wetland. The Supreme Court ruled against the EPA in this example. Some of the potential impact to property owners may include restricting building decisions, growing crops, managing livestock and the expansion of small businesses and other activities on private land. It also could impact accessing our energy reserves through more control by the EPA. In the case of the Idaho couple they had all the permits required from their state but it did not make a difference to this entity.

Creating rules and changing definitions by government departments and agencies is well within their responsibilities except when these actions are outside their jurisdictional authority. In a democracy we have certain rights and government dictating what we can or cannot do on our own land is wrong unless we violate the law. I am all for clean water but changing the definition of what is considered to be navigational waters is an arbitrary move to expand the reach of this agency. Navigational waters in my opinion are waters that connect to rivers or oceans and a freestanding does not agree with it violates the law. The definition of navigable waters according to dictionary.com is distinguished by their use. Basically navigable waters are those which are used for business or transportation. It is a simple definition and one that makes sense.

Another definition currently in the code of federal regulations (CFR 329.4 states: “Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the water body, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity.”

Property rights are an important if not critical aspect of our rights as citizens. We as owners should be able to make our own decisions on how we use our property unless if violates laws or regulations. Some cities in the past have created ordnances which in fact violate our freedom of speech rights and have been fought in our judicial system. Like the EPA municipalities in many cases are overstepping their authority in creating ordnances in violation of our rights under the Constitution. There may be some exceptions but they should be the exception rather than the rule. Overreach by any government entity with regards to property rights should be fought to the fullest extent of the law. Government controls enough of our lives and they should not dictate what we can or cannot do with our own property as law as it is within the laws of our individual state or federal law.

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