Puddles, Potholes Under Government Control — Has EPA Gone Too Far?

ginaFirst it went after coal, now it’s going after … puddles. Is there anything the Environmental Protection Agency can’t regulate if it wants to? Based on its recent actions, apparently not.

The EPA is perhaps the pre-eminent example of the “administrative state” — the quasi-permanent unelected federal bureaucracy made up of 77 agencies and departments that operate largely free of congressional interference and that write rules that have the power of enforceable law.

Now, fresh off declaring it can essentially regulate all industrial activity to get rid of CO2 in our atmosphere, the EPA in cahoots with the Army Corps of Engineers just unveiled what it calls the “clean water rule.”

The intent, as the Obama administration announced, is to save the nation’s streams, headwaters, creeks and wetlands from “pollution and degradation.”

“Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, adding that the new rule would help “strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”

The EPA claims authority to do what it’s doing under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which is supposed to cover only “navigable waterways.”

The rule doesn’t provide “certainty,” as McCarthy promised. What it does is muddle the picture for businesses. The rule extends EPA control over such near-waterless features as dry creeks, potholes and puddles.

So any private individual or business that wants to do anything even remotely related to water will have to ask the government’s permission.

Not surprisingly, some in Congress are furious over the EPA’s continuing unconstitutional power grab. Dozens of Democrats have joined the GOP in opposing it.

“EPA’s attempt to redefine ‘navigable waterways’ to include every drainage ditch, backyard pond and puddle is a radical regulatory overreach that threatens to take away the rights of property owners and will lead to costly litigation and lost jobs,” said GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, earlier this week, the regulatory state — of which EPA is a major part — has become an enormous brake on our economy, one that violates Americans’ constitutional rights.

In 2012, according to a recent report from the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. federal regulatory efforts cost the economy just over $2 trillion — an amount equal to 13% of gross domestic product.

As recently as 1990, the federal regulatory registry had “just” 50,000 pages. Today, it’s more than 80,000 — an economy-killing expansion of 60% in the amount of regulations.

Every rule promulgated by the federal government reflects a new restriction on Americans to do what they wish with their own lives, talents and property. Meanwhile, few, if any, tangible benefits exist. That’s what the administrative state represents.

The House this month already voted to send the rule back to the EPA for reconsideration. A bill before the Senate would do the same thing. Let’s hope Congress takes this bipartisan action to stem the growth of the increasingly powerful and unlawful administrative state.

It’s time to draw a constitutional line and defend it.