EPA Regulations

This year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed sweeping changes to the rules that dictate how farmers need to care for the water on their land. These rules are an amendment to the Clean Water Act, an important piece of legislation that protects our waterways from industrial pollution. However, recent Supreme Court rulings have cast doubt on what types of waters the EPA has jurisdiction over, so the EPA has recently attempted to clarify their jurisdiction by proposing a series of new rules and definitions. Unfortunately, their proposal has only made matters worse.

These new rules have left people even more confused than they previously were. Some people have referred to it as a “federal land and water grab,” implying that the federal government will now be monitoring landowners when they dig drainage ditches or water their lawns. This is not the case, but people have legitimate concerns that the EPA is overstepping its bounds, and they are being distracted from their role in protecting our nation’s environment.

Historically, the Clean Water Act has only applied to bodies of water that cross state lines or are considered “navigable,” meaning that they are rivers or lakes that can be used for transportation. However, the Act also provides EPA jurisdiction over bodies of water that feed into or otherwise affect these navigable waters, such as tributaries and marshlands. Prior to these new rules, landowners could use their common sense to know whether or not they would need to consult the EPA before making changes to their property. In the opinion of many people, however, the new rules have made the process more confusing, not less.

The EPA’s new regulations vastly expand their jurisdiction over a wide variety of waterways, but do not give clear guidelines on when this jurisdiction will come into effect. They use a Supreme Court decision that describes a waterway having a “significant nexus” of influence over protected waters, but make no effort to define what this term, “significant nexus” means. This has left many people concerned that instead of clarifying which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, these regulations have left the matter up to interpretation.

Landowners and business owners throughout the United States will now be left in the lurch, wondering if their plans will be forbidden under the EPA’s new interpretation of the Clean Water Act. People all across America are now wondering if they need to apply for a federal permit before digging a drainage ditch or irrigating a field. And the only way they will find out if they need a permit is to apply for one, wait for months or years, and hope that they will eventually hear back from the EPA.

No reasonable person would argue that we do not need to protect America’s environment. In today’s world, making sure we all have access to clean water is critically important. This makes the EPA’s mission, protecting our environment, something all Americans should support. However, the EPA needs better oversight. It is currently operating as a bureaucratic regime that has overstepped its bounds. Making life difficult for small farmers and property owners is simply distracting the agency from its proper role of setting environmental standards for business and industry.

We need strong leadership to step in and redirect the EPA back towards its mission. If you believe that America needs a healthy environment with clear rules for farmers and property owners, then join me in 2016, and cast your write in vote for Art Drew for President of the United States.