EPA’s Heavy Hand

I used to drink delicious well water, now it tastes like chlorine. No one got sick from the un-chlorinated water, but an Environmental Protection Agency regulation said it needed to be chlorinated. This is one regulation I’ve seen personally annoy me.

Another was when the EPA shut down an ice cream stand in Chelmsford Ma. It opened a week later and nothing ever came of the reason for the shut down; un-permitted modifications on a property barn. This means a government bureaucracy arbitrarily shut down a small business without reason. The business was allowed to open again a week later, again arbitrarily as no new permit had been acquired, nor further modifications made to the barn. This happened on mother’s day weekend, to a seasonal business.  Is this the type of power we want to give to unelected government agencies?

It’s not about access to ice cream, and it is not about my water not tasting fresh. This is about government having control over our private lives. It’s easy to write this off as another minor instance of government overstepping its bounds, but it won’t be little things for long.

One couple was told by the EPA that land they had bought and began building on had been a wetland, and it was the couple’s responsibility to return the land to its previous state. No due process, no warrant, and the couple claimed no wetland had ever existed on their property. The EPA said that they could appeal the order, AFTER they complied with it. This means they would have to spend thousands of dollars they may or may not have, to make their land un-buildable. This would have meant more money down the drain because of an EPA order, and a lost investment on land that they cannot use. And, for every day that they did not comply with the order, a fine would be imposed. The couple sued and the case went to the supreme court.

Under the law, violations of the Clean Water Act can result in fines of up to $37,500 per day, plus as much as an additional $37,500 per day for violating the EPA compliance order.

The EPA issues nearly 3,000 compliance orders a year that require accused violators of environmental laws to stop alleged harmful actions and repair any damage that was caused.

The couple sued the EPA in 2007, and finally in March of 2012 the supreme court ruled that people have a right to a hearing BEFORE they must comply with the EPA order.

The justices overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling that a compliance order was not subject to judicial review until later when the EPA has brought an enforcement action and seeks to have a judge rule in its favor. (Full Article).

A victory for the couple? Hardly, they are no better off than they were in 2007, construction on the home had been halted, and other costs related to owning land—like property taxes—still needed to be paid.

A bill introduced with bipartisan support in the House, and a similar bill in the Senate seeks to limit the regulatory power of the EPA because of the EPA’s new regulations regarding ditches and gullies on private property as navigable waterways. The agency again uses the Clean Water Act to claim this power, but what is really at stake is private property rights.

These temporary water sources are often created by rain or snowmelt, and would make it harder for private property owners to build in their own backyards, grow crops, raise livestock and conduct other activities on their own land, lawmakers say. (Full Article).

What we risk by empowering the EPA is an environmental Gestapo who operates outside the rule of law, with little oversight by the courts or elected politicians. By broadening the definition of what they are allowed to regulate, they will be able to pick a piece of land, and find something to regulate, instead of seeing a problem and then trying to fix it.

Are you skeptical that the EPA has this “I am above the law” mentality? Consider the comments made by EPA Region VI Administrator Al Armendariz:

“I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said:

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean.  They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.

“Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

“It’s a deterrent factor,” Armendariz said, explaining that the EPA is following the Romans’ philosophy for subjugating conquered villages. (Full Article).

Government agencies should not be in the practice of encouraging or discouraging particular industries that are otherwise lawful. But the EPA has a big list of industries that it wants to influence or get rid of.

An EPA regulation banned over the counter asthma inhalers because of the apparent negative impact on the environment. Now people need to spend more money for prescription treatment for asthma. Obviously it would be nearly impossible to prove whether this ban had any positive effect on the environment, and whether it was worth the cost to people with asthma. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-administration-ban-asthma-inhalers-over-environmental-concerns_594113.html

The House also recently had to pass a farm bill to prevent the EPA from regulating farm dust. The EPA had mentioned the possibility of piling on regulations for small farms to insure dust does not travel from one farm to another. This would have detrimental effects on small and organic farms who cannot comply with the costly regulation, while larger corporate farms would be able to grow even larger as a comparatively small percentage of revenue would go toward complying with the regulations. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/198217-farm-dust-bill-approved-in-house

There are many more instances of the EPA’s heavy handedness, it appears to be common practice for them.

One thought on “EPA’s Heavy Hand

  1. Pingback: Forward: Down the Road to Serfdom | Joe Jarvis

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