Property Rights Under Attack from EPA Regulation

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers proposed new regulations that would drastically expand the ability of the federal government to regulate private property. The ‘Waters of the USA’ rule, as it is known, has faced opposition from Americans across the country concerned that it would limit their private property rights. 

Advocacy groups representing property owners, farmers and ranchers fear the rule allows the EPA to place all water bodies including streams, ponds, ditches and even puddles under their jurisdiction. This would subject private property to costly government permits and restrictions. Some property owners fear that even the most basic activities will become heavily scrutinized by government bureaucrats. Farming groups have expressed concerned that they will be hit especially hard with the rule restricting their ability to apply fertilizers or pesticides to areas of land that temporarily fill with water after heavy rain.

Supporters of the rule claim that it is needed to help conserve waterways and is relatively modest in scope. However, the proposed rule change has drawn over 12,000 comments from landowners expressing their concerns, with more expected before the October 20 commenting deadline. As a result of the backlash, lawmakers have begun to take notice – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed concerns that the rule is too sweeping and “will impact farmers, energy producers and any private citizens that use their land for economic or recreational purposes.”
In response to opposition to the rule, the House passed legislation on Tuesday that would block the administration from implementing its plan. However, farm groups concede the rule has no chance of being stopped until after the mid-term elections given the current gridlock and the continued unwillingness of the Obama administration to work with property owners.