You know how sometimes, when it rains, a pond forms for a day or two in that little depression on your property?
The White House thinks that should count as one of the “waters of the United States,” and it wants to regulate it.
Historically, “waters of the United States” has been defined in the Clean Water Act as navigable waters, and adjacent waters. But the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently proposed a rule to greatly expand the definition, to include any land that has any water overflow at any point during the year, if the water ends up in a navigable body.
The EPA says the proposed change is aimed at reducing confusion following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, but on its website, the agency says it will evaluate waters with “uncertain connections” to the protection of wetlands, rivers and streams.
That’s vague and could include unexceptional streams, drainage ditches and, yes, even those ponds that form after a good rain.
This unprecedented — and unacceptable — land grab by the federal government spells trouble for land owners, including individuals and small-business owners.
If the EPA and the Corps of Engineers are allowed to claim jurisdiction over your land, it will be impossible — or at least tremendously expensive — to do anything with your land. You won’t be able to do any digging or excavating on your own property, or even put down gravel, without the federal government getting involved.
Since the EPA considers this a simple definition change, it claims there are no major costs directly imposed on small businesses, which, of course, is nonsense. There will definitely be costs directly imposed on small businesses, through the permit process and other compliance requirements. In addition, the proposed rule makes it clear that many waters will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis, therefore providing little, if any, additional certainty.
The EPA is taking public comment on the proposed changes until Nov. 14. Now is the time to speak out.
We can’t afford to allow Washington bureaucrats tell us what we can and can’t do with our own land.
S.C. director, National Federation of Independent Business