The Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to expand its regulatory reach across the U.S. represents a regrettable trend. Under the Obama administration, the EPA has issued regulations that are far more costly and more intrusive than under any previous administration.
In fact, two new rules issued by the agency could represent the largest expansion of power by the federal government in our nation’s history. The EPA’s new water rule attempts to give the federal government regulatory power over virtually all natural and man-made water sources in the U.S. And the recent power plant rule imposes an outrageous scheme that would reach all the way into our homes, forcing energy rationing, costing thousands of jobs and driving up electricity prices.
In the EPA’s water rule, the Obama administration redefines what “waters of the United States” means in the Clean Water Act. By reinterpreting the law, the EPA could dramatically expand the agency’s federal authority over state, local and even private property.
The water rule fails to provide clarity on what is or isn’t “water.” This wasn’t a mistake. By not clearly defining “water,” there is almost no limit to the regulatory authority the federal government might claim through the rule. Water can be defined as a river, pond, stream or even a dry creek bed. It’s whatever the EPA wants it to be whenever it wants it to be.
A map from the EPA’s draft report shows tributaries in red and larger streams in blue that the EPA considered claiming in the West, which is nearly the entire area.
When Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, it was intended to be about water, not land. But according to the EPA, 59 percent of the “streams” it believes it could claim the power to regulate aren’t always wet. These are places that often only become wet after a rain storm, and in some cases are so tiny or temporary that they don’t even appear on maps.
The EPA’s website says these areas could include “a drizzle of snowmelt that runs down a mountainside crease, a small spring-fed pond, or a depression in the ground that fills with water after every rain and overflows into the creek below.”
The practical implications of this new rule are especially troubling for private property owners. If you have a creek or stream in your backyard and want to expand your home or build a fort for your kids, you may first have to get permission from unelected government officials in Washington, D.C.
The EPA rule opens the floodgates and ushers in a new era of EPA regulations. It represents an enormous expansion of federal control over the American people.
But the water rule isn’t the only problem with the EPA’s radical regulatory agenda. The EPA’s new power plant rule is all pain and no gain.
Last month, the Obama administration announced stringent new carbon regulations for existing power plans. The agency turned this time to the Clean Air Act to support the new rule. But the act was never intended to regulate carbon. And the net effect is that power plants across the country will be forced to close, driving up electricity prices and costing hard-working Americans their jobs.
And for what? The plants and the jobs will just go overseas to places like China and India.
We all want to protect the environment. But the Obama administration’s policies are not based on sound science; instead they are driven by a partisan agenda.
U.S. emissions have already declined by 9 percent from 2008 to 2012. Studies show that dramatically cutting carbon emissions in the U.S. will have little effect on the global temperature in the future. That’s because this is not a U.S. problem, it’s a global issue. And it’s going to take a global solution.
So rather than regulating Americans back into the dark ages, we should focus on technological innovations that cut energy costs, create jobs and can be used worldwide.
The American people don’t want the EPA in their backyards. And they don’t want the federal government burdening businesses with regulations that have no real benefit.
It’s time to rein in the EPA’s radical regulatory agenda before the entire U.S. is covered in red tape.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee.