EPA's 'unprecedented' power grab for private property

Two Republican House members have sent a letter to the EPA questioning new rules being formulated that would give the EPA sweeping authority over streams and wetlands on private property.

The EPA is justifying the rules by saying it's part of its mandate to enforce the Clean Water Act. But Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah), both ranking members of the Science and Technology Committee, doubt the EPA's science in justifying the regulations and want the agency to slow down and get other opinions.

The Hill:

In a letter to the agency on Friday, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) alleged that it is trying to initiate a "sweeping reinterpretation" of its jurisdiction in a potential new rule.

The regulation to expand the EPA's oversight would give it "unprecedented control over private property across the nation," they asserted.

In September, the EPA began the process of asserting that it can regulate streams, estuaries and other small bodies of water under authority granted by the Clean Water Act. The agency said that the new rule is necessary to clear up confusion caused by two recent Supreme Court cases.

The EPA said making sure that regulations protecting clean water apply to those smaller waters ends up protecting larger lakes and rivers downstream.

Republican lawmakers have attacked the move and accused the agency of making a broad power grab. They worry that the EPA's science has not been thorough enough to warrant a new rule.

"In light of the significant implications this action would have on the economy, property rights, and state sovereignty, this process must be given more thought and deliberation to allow for important, statutorily-required, weighing of the scientific and technical underpinnings of the proposed regulatory changes," Smith and Stewart wrote on Friday.

Smith is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and Stewart leads its environment subcommittee.

The proposal is currently under review at the White House's budget office, where most major rules are subjected to scrutiny before being unveiled to the public.

Once the proposal is released, the EPA will accept public comments and revise the regulation before finalizing it.

The lawmakers want the EPA to give a copy of the proposal to the agency's science advisory board, which is made up of outside experts from academia and businesses, for a thorough review.

The EPA has defined "wetlands" so broadly that some farmers who have been socked with fines for supposedly damaging or disturbing their own property were astonished to discover that they were violating any laws. Now the EPA wants to expand their power to violate private property rights in the name of environmental protection.

The erosion of property rights has been one of the most damaging developments in the era of big government. It is almost universally recognized that strong protections for property owners is one of the major guarantors of our liberties. The push by government to undermine those rights and liberties did not start with the Obama administration, and they probably won't end with it. But the expense of defending one's rights against the government means that few can afford the protracted court battles that ensue when the  government's appetite for control gets out of hand.