EPA Stealthily Propels Toward 'Massive Power Grab of Private Property Across the U.S.'

Vitter penned a letter to Nancy K. Stoner, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Water, highlighting the court's decision as "a refreshing reproach to EPA’s disdain for landowners throughout the country."

"The proper course of action would be for EPA to accept the decision and apply it uniformly so that our farmers are not further confused or otherwise harassed by the agency," Vitter wrote. "It should not take taxing litigation to remove the government’s threat of ruinous fines and penalties for the productive and lawful use of private property, especially in circumstances where bureaucratic interference is clearly beyond the scope of federal regulatory authority."

The EPA states on its website that court rulings since the act's 1972 passage have "caused confusion about which waters and wetlands remain protected."

"Improvements" to the act that clarify jurisdiction "are necessary to reduce costs and minimize delays in the permit process and protect waters that are vital to public health, the environment and economy," the EPA adds.

Last week, Smith and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget expressing concern that the EPA is "rushing forward regardless of whether the science actually supports the rule."

"This rule could represent a dramatic expansion of EPA's authority to include isolated wetlands, streams and ditches," they wrote. "Such unrestrained federal intrusion poses a serious threat to private property rights, state sovereignty and economic growth."

The EPA submitted its draft rule to the OMB on Sept. 17, the same day it sent a draft scientific assessment of the rule to the agency's Scientific Advisory Board. Smith and Stewart reminded the OMB that open peer review of the scientific basis for the rule should happen first, per OMB rules that require proper procedure for "highly influential" rules that "have a potential impact of more than $500 million in any one year on either the public or private sector."

"By rushing through this process, the Agency not only violates the law, but ignores its commitments to Congress and the American people," the chairmen added. "This rushed rulemaking is a clear attempt to rubber stamp the pre-determined regulatory agenda."