EPA’s Backyard Blitz Imperiled | Commentary

Posted July 15, 2014 at 2:41pm

President Ronald Reagan once said our “government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Twenty-eight years later, anyone who cashes a paycheck, files their taxes, picks up the local newspaper or turns on the TV knows these words ring true just as they did in 1986.

Back home in Missouri, I frequently speak with people who are worried about our out-of-control federal government. It does not take much effort to see what is happening in Washington. Government bureaucrats at the IRS, the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Energy are becoming increasingly aggressive, and the biggest bully of the bunch, by far, is the Environmental Protection Agency.

During this administration, the EPA has overreached time and time again, seeking to accomplish by regulation what normally becomes law through legislation.

Several years ago, the EPA tried to regulate farm dust, which would impact family farms and agriculture producers. Then it went after wood burning stoves used for inexpensive home heating. Now, the president and the EPA are trying to force some of the most crushing regulations on coal power plants in history. What will this mean for my constituents, small businesses and Americans around the country? Higher electric bills.

But few regulations are more damaging and intrusive than the EPA’s proposed rule to give bureaucrats in Washington a stronger foothold in our backyards. The recent EPA and Army Corps of Engineers “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule would give the government control over thousands of small streams, ditches and ponds on private property, some of which may contain little or no water. In bypassing Congress and without the consent of the governed, the EPA’s egregious agenda is poised to smother economic activity and job growth.

After a lengthy period of intense public outcry and bipartisan objections from lawmakers, including from the Small Business Committee, which I chair, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers delayed the rule. This is good, right? After all, a longer period to review this proposal allows Americans more time to voice their concerns to the EPA. However, the agencies haven’t been forthcoming about the rule’s actual consequences for small businesses, which makes it more deceiving and difficult to comprehend.

What we already know is that the EPA’s new federal regulatory scheme employs arbitrary, ambiguous, and confusing terms to vastly expand the size and scope of its authority. Yet, the agencies have failed to assess the impacts of the proposed rule on small businesses as the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires. As a result, the proposed rule is actually creating more confusion for businesses. And, slow-walking its proposed rule will do little to dispel the many fears held by property owners and small businesses around the country. It would be wiser to simply withdraw the rule altogether.

The EPA’s overreach is nothing new. With so much at stake, Congress needs to have more say when the EPA comes out with rules that will significantly impact our economy, and we should be given an up-or-down vote. The EPA should be required to take a second look at regulations already on the books, and further regulation should not take place until this happens.

The president has made clear that his administration will go to any length to enact his environmental agenda. His model of big government is spiraling out of control. Higher costs, more confusion and economic stagnation are all on the way unless the EPA is stopped. Our government is putting the squeeze on middle class Americans and small businesses, and the water rule needs to go. It’s time to close the flood gates on this administration.

Rep. Sam Graves is a Republican from Missouri and chairman of the House Small Business Committee.