This week the Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rule to “clarify” what waters of the U.S. are covered by the Clean Water Act of 1972, which was intended to limit pollution of navigable waterways, such as the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
Under the new EPA rule the agency is seeking control over every stream, ditch or wetland that might eventually spill a few drops into any waterway that might occasionally be navigable with an inner tube.
Of course, the rule overreaches far beyond what Congress ever intended.
This would allow the federal government to require a permit and demand a fee for any work that alters the flow of water near any rivulet — anything from dredging an irrigation ditch to terracing a field — on public or private land.
President Obama declared, “Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution. This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act …” claiming the rule has been written to avoid harming farming, ranching and forestry.
Sen. John Barrasso is pressing a bill in the Senate, one that would specify the types of streams and wetlands that can and cannot be covered under federal law.
“Under this outrageously broad rule, Washington will have control over how family farmers, ranchers and small businesses not only use their water, but also their privately owned land,” Barrasso said in a statement, adding that “our bill that says yes to clean water — and no to extreme bureaucracy.”
A Wall Street Journal editorial points out just how sweeping and subjective the rule is:
“The EPA acknowledges that the ‘science available today does not establish that waters beyond those defined as “adjacent”‘ to these ‘significant’ waters should be regulated. But forget science. The agency says its ‘experience and expertise’ show there are ‘many’ other waters that could have a significant downstream effect. Thus the EPA establishes an additional standard for significance that covers just about anything that’s wet.
“So the new rule says the feds can also regulate waters within the 100-year floodplain and 4,000 feet of their claimed bailiwick or land features like prairie potholes and vernal pools that’“in combination’ have a significant effect. A pothole on farmer Dan’s land may not affect downstream waters, but the EPA could still regulate Dan’s pothole if regulators determine that prairie potholes collectively do.”