One of the most controversial power grabs ever by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of the Engineers (Corps) isn’t addressed in the CRomnibus.
Earlier this year, the EPA and the Corps proposed their “Waters of the United States” rule, defining what waters the agencies can regulate under the Clean Water Act. A final rule is expected as early as this spring.
As expected, the agencies are trying to regulate almost every type of water, from most ditches to depressions in land that contain water only when it rains. Property owners often need to get permits if they take actions that will impact waters covered under the law. Since more waters will be covered under the proposed rule, property owners will have to secure many more permits.
The impact of the rule could be devastating. Farmers and ranchers will likely face significant obstacles just to engage in normal agricultural activities. Developers will simply forego projects because of the time and cost associated with securing permits. States will have their role in implementing the CWA minimized because of a power-hungry centralized government.
There has been opposition to the rule from a wide range of interests and legislators. The House even passed legislation, separate from the appropriations process, that would prohibit the rule from being implemented.
The CRomnibus could have prohibited any funds from being used to implement this rule, but it fails to do so. There were reportedly efforts to block the rule, but when it came to crunch time, legislators developing the CRomnibus didn’t include the necessary language.
Many legislators rightfully complain that the EPA and other agencies are abusing their power, but they don’t do what is necessary to hold these agencies accountable. If they don’t use the appropriations process to address this rule, Congress again would be failing to use its power of the purse to rein in the overreach by the EPA and the Corps.