Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 18, 2012

Going Rogue, Part IX: EPA continues attempt to expand power, control

— — It’s been nearly six months since the antics of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have received attention, but in the last several days two instances have sneaked past the mainstream media filter and become public knowledge, even though only a limited number of people will have seen the reports.

In the first example, a couple seeking to have a retirement home in New Mexico purchased 20 acres of land near Sante Fe. Over the years, the unused land had accumulated quite a lot of trash which the couple intended to clean up to make their property a suitable place for them to spend their remaining years. But no, cleaning up their own property for their own use will not be possible because the dedicated public servants at the EPA have cited the Clean Water Act and prohibited the clean-up saying it might harm the Rio Grande River.

Now, who among us would not want to prevent activities that pollute the nation’s waterways? However, it is difficult to understand how cleaning up tin cans, broken glass and other such trash could actually harm a river, unless the trash ended up being dumped in the river or on its banks, which the couple did not intend to do.

The EPA’s decree at first glance seems intrusive and absurd. Actually, it is much worse than it appears: the Rio Grande about which the EPA folks were so concerned is 25 miles away from the couple’s property.

This outrageous interference has driven property owners Peter and Francoise Smith to court to seek justice against this mindless government over-reach.

The case is being brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on the Smith’s behalf, and the organization alleges that the land does not contain any relatively permanent, standing or continuous body of water that can be regulated by the Clean Water Act.

We’ll have to wait to see how this plays out in court.

In order to further expand its cancerous growth of power and control over the American people, the EPA stretches definitions to the breaking point, asserting that mud puddles that form after rain are “wetlands,” as illustrated in the second example.

The EPA now seeks to gain control over land alongside ditches, gullies and other spots where water may temporarily accumulate from rains or melting snow, claiming they are part of navigable waterways. Seriously.

They are not waterways or wetlands, of course, and they are certainly not navigable, but these temporary “waters” often interfere with how private property owners want to use their own property, to perhaps construct an out building, grow crops, raise livestock and conduct other activities in which private landowners may choose to indulge. But the EPA proposes to tell these landowners just how they may use their property.

“Never in the history of the Clean Water Act has federal regulation defined ditches and other upland features as ‘waters of the United States,’ ” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the ranking committee member, and Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

In a related event, the EPA notified Virginia last December that it would have to take steps to reduce the amount of highway runoff from rain that eventually ends up in a particular stream in Fairfax County. The EPA considers this a no-no because the runoff contains sediment that collects in streams. The rub comes in how the agency has twisted reality to assume control over runoff: it treats rain as a pollutant.

Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Democrat Fairfax County Board of Supervisors claim that the EPA’s position is illegal and say further that if the Commonwealth is forced to comply it would cost the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with storm water regulations just for the one creek the EPA cited. To control the rain “pollution” VDOT would have to seize private land, evict persons living on it, tear down homes, businesses and other structures on the land, and plant grass that would absorb the runoff.

Reasonable people consider such radical steps as an idiotic solution for a problem with such a tiny effect on the whole of the Commonwealth.

The EPA is likely the most out-of-control federal agency, although it is not without challengers for that dubious distinction. It believes it has authority to do virtually anything it imagines will promote better environmental conditions, no matter how insignificant the perceived problem may be in reality.

It makes no difference to these public servants how many people are affected, how many jobs are lost or how much money is spent; no legal, moral or practical concern is sufficient enough to deter them from regulating themselves into power-induced ecstasy.

The fact that Democrat Congressman Nick Rahall joined with Republican chairmen of two House committees, and that the Democrat Fairfax County Board of Supervisors joined with Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in protest, illustrates the degree to which officials now believe the EPA is out of control.

Let’s hope changes are on the way.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

1
Text Only
Columns
Editorials
Poll

What is your favorite college football team? After voting, go to facebook.com/bdtonline to comment.

Marshall University
WVU Mountaineers
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Cavaliers
Other
     View Results