Ron Curry, the assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency region that includes Oklahoma, has said the EPA’s newly proposed Waters of the United States rule will provide slam-dunk benefits to Oklahomans that would come without a cost.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The EPA claims significant powers under the Clean Water Act to regulate pollution discharges into federally protected waterways. But when Congress passed this law in 1972, it limited the application to EPA’s authority to “navigable” waterways. In the decades since, it’s become clear why Congress did this.
Permits under the Clean Water Act can take months of bureaucratic wrangling and an average of $270,000 in expenses to secure. If the EPA takes enforcement action against an individual or company, it can impose severe financial penalties of up to $37,500 per day.
With its newly proposed rule, the EPA seeks to dramatically expand the reach of its regulatory authority by treating any waterway that has a “nexus” to a navigable waterway as if it were a navigable waterway itself. This means everything from irrigation ditches in the farmland of western Oklahoma to backyard creeks in eastern Oklahoma would be brought under the same federal bureaucratic restrictions as the Mississippi River itself.
And in case the EPA didn’t expand its authority enough, it left itself a generous “case-by-case” provision that would allow it to regulate other waters as it deems appropriate.
This proposed rule rightfully has the business community in disarray. The farming community in Oklahoma will be among the worst hit. Despite assurances from EPA that the rule won’t impact farming, both the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and American Farmers and Ranchers have weighed in, stating that it’s an unnecessary and dramatic expansion of federal authority and could lead to the EPA and other federal agencies dictating farming practices on private lands.
No Oklahoma farmer needs a federal agency to tell him how to take care of the land and waters. This is the lifeblood of agriculture; farmers maintain the health of the ecosystem so they’re able to provide food and clothing for the nation.
Every industry in Oklahoma would be negatively affected by this rule. Homebuilders may be forced to seek EPA permits for their construction projects, which could prevent Oklahomans from raising their families in the homes they want. Road construction projects could become more costly and take longer as the state and local communities are forced to evaluate and mitigate far more water-related impacts than currently required.
And the oil and gas industry would find itself with one more opportunity for the EPA to regulate them out of business.
The EPA’s proposed rule needs to be seen for what it is: a dramatic expansion of its regulatory authority over the private lives of Oklahomans. The EPA should withdraw it.
Inhofe, a Republican, was re-elected Nov. 4 to a six-year term. He is the senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and likely will become committee chairman next year.