The most foundational principle for the Rule of Law is enforcement of property rights. When someone — anyone — can come in and take what’s yours, or what’s mine, without compensation and without recourse, there’s no Rule of Law.
That’s why the EPA’s new water regulations are so egregious — they grant the agency the power to take a person’s property, without payment or appeal. And they do so by simply changing what some words mean.
“The EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal would change the definition of ‘waters of the U.S.’ as used in the Clean Water Act (CWA), expanding the range of ‘navigable waters’ that fall under the CWA’s jurisdiction,” explains the group Americans for Prosperity. “The rule would extend the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers authority to regulate private land anywhere in the U.S. that water can conceivably run, even dry creek beds, manmade ditches, and intermittent standing water. Not exactly water sources that come to mind when one thinks of shipping and navigation.”
What this means is that the Clean Water Act would apply to any bar ditch or dry creek bed or low spot on any American’s property.
As American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman testified to Congress last month, “The proposal … categorically regulates as ‘navigable waters’ countless ephemeral drains, ditches and other features across the countryside that are wet only when it rains and may be miles from the nearest truly ‘navigable’ water. It would also regulate small, remote ‘wetlands’ — which may be nothing more than low spots on a farm field — just because those areas happen to be adjacent to a ditch or located in a floodplain.”
The EPA’s public statements are filled with words like “wetlands” and “waters,” he points out. But those words don’t mean the same thing to the EPA as they mean to us.
“To the general public, such terms may conjure images of flowing waters or swamps appropriate for Clean Water Act protection and regulation,” he told Congress. “In reality, they are being used to regulate land as if it were water — and ‘navigable water’ at that.”
The real issue here is property rights.
Historically, water has been a more complicated issue than “mine is mine, yours is yours.” That’s because what I do to the creek where it flows through my property will affect the creek as it flows through your property. So there’s got to be some consideration for the effects of what I do. We all agree on that.
But what the EPA is proposing to do vastly expands its power by expanding the definitions of what it has power over.
“If the EPA is allowed to expand its power to ditches and bone dry creek beds on private lands, it’s unclear where the power grab will end,” Americans for Property adds. “Will the EPA soon seek to regulate puddles on your property, baby pools, standing water in the local Wal-Mart parking lot, or your grandmother’s bird bath?”
Congress must rein in the EPA and defend the property rights of Americans.