What Others Are Saying

The Obama administration’s new Clean Water Act rule is another massive power grab by the federal government in the view of Georgia’s senior senator, Johnny Isakson. He believes the rule, finalized March 25, allows the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate nearly all private and state waters in the nation, no matter how small. 

After release of the proposed rule last year, Isakson joined a group of 24 senators challenging the proposal in a letter to the EPA administrator and the Secretary of the Army (the Corps of Engineers has regulatory authority over waterways). But that effort got nowhere, not surprisingly, considering this White House’s constant power-grabbing.

In the meantime, Isakson co-sponsored the Federal Water Quality Protection Act which would require the EPA and the Secretary of the Army to come up with a revised definition of the term “waters of the United States” to set clear limits and take into account an economic analysis of the rule.

Isakson said that under the new rule few bodies of water can escape the broad definition of “waters of the United States,” subject to EPA and Corps of Engineers regulation. He said the proposal in effect eliminates the “navigable waters” provision of the Clean Water Act — a provision added by Congress to guarantee limits to federal authority.

Now, the senator says, federal bureaucrats are allowed “to assert control over thousands of streams, creeks, wetlands, ponds and ditches throughout the country.” He warns: “This latest overreach by the executive branch will provide the administration as well as environmental groups with a powerful tool to delay and prevent development and land use activities on property owned by homeowners, farms, small businesses and municipalities. This rule harms not only landowners, but our entire agriculture industry in Georgia.”

Also strongly opposing the new rule is U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who represents Northwest Georgia including Floyd County. He says the change “vastly expands the definition of waterways” and gives the EPA the ability “to regulate small streams, farm ponds and irrigation ditches, which could devastate farmers and ranchers across the country.” He voted for a resolution passed by the House requiring withdrawal of the rule, and also the 2016 energy and water appropriations bill which included a prohibition to implementing the rule. The Senate, he said, should “act swiftly to sink the administration’s water grab.”

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce in a policy advisory to its members said: “This will be a complex regulatory regime for Georgia’s water users to work through as they seek to obtain new or renew existing water permits. The devil will be in the details.” The chamber said its concern “was the expansion of EPA’s rule-making authority, increased costs and regulatory burdens for water users and a real likelihood of encroachment on the property rights of individual water users.” The chamber cited this EPA statement: “The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.” If that is the case, may we ask then, why is the new rule needed? The chamber said it will study the rule closely and “consult with state agencies and our industry colleagues to clarify the extent of change and determine who will benefit and who will likely face greater regulatory burdens.”

It seems clear to us that Sen. Isakson and Rep. Graves are well informed on this new rule and its implications in the hands of the regulation-happy Obama administration. They know well how things work in the legislative mill and the federal bureaucracies.