This past 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 originally was intended to limit pollution of navigable waterways, such as the Great Lakes and the Colorado River.
Under this rule the EPA is taking control over every stream, ditch, wetland or muddy hoof print that might eventually, somehow 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,” which to the EPA includes dirt. “This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need …” he said, claiming the rule has been written to avoid harming farming, ranching and forestry.
But the Western Congressional Caucus — of which Nevada Republican Reps. Mark Amodei, Cresent Hardy and Joe Heck are members — said the EPA spurned public comment and input from the states in the rulemaking process, saying of the new rule, “This is nothing short of a federal seizure of state waters, to the point where very few, if any, water bodies will be left for the states to manage. Water rights, economic growth, and local conservation efforts will suffer. Instead of working with the local officials and state agencies who know their needs the best, citizens will have to depend on a disconnected federal bureaucracy for management of our most precious natural resource: our water.”
Just a couple of weeks ago Amdoei, Hardy and Heck voted with a majority of the House (261-155) on a bill to block this EPA water rule (H.R. 1732). Rep. Dina Titus, of course, voted against it.
Hardy, who was touring rural communities in his district when the rule was announced, issued a statement saying, “The more disturbing part to me is how they are going against the wishes of Congress, state and local leaders, and millions of American citizens who will be affected most by this rule. Even after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan piece of legislation (H.R. 1732) to ask for the EPA to reconsider the then-proposed rule and work with others to complete a fair alternative, this action reveals the underlying motive, which is to greatly expand federal jurisdiction over as much private property as possible. I encourage local and state leaders across Nevada to continue to raise their voice in opposition to this rule.”
Amodei tersely commented, “”In case there was any doubt, Barack Obama has confirmed that his belief in one branch of the federal government, him, is all he is capable of fathoming. Nineteen months left in the most incompetent and destructive presidency in modern history. Run, clock, run!”
Nevada’s Republican Sen. Dean Heller posted his comment on Twitter, “The Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Waters of the US’ water grab ignores the needs of western states like Nevada. We should send the Environmental Protection Agency back to the drawing board.”
Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming is pressing in the Senate an effort similar to H.R 1732, one that would specify the types of streams and wetlands that may and may not 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.”
At a meeting of the Nevada Conservation Commission a year ago, state engineer Jason King, whose office determines who in Nevada has rights to various water sources, was quoted as saying, “I look at this as an attempt to get into the regulation of the amount of water — an attempt to get their nose under the tent.”
We call on our congressional delegation to help press for legislation that will pull the teeth from this draconian rule that could devastate Nevada agriculture and industry.
A version of this editorial appears this past week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.