Commishes nix EPA rules
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Citizens of the State of Texas do not suffer silently myriad rules and regulations - especially those proposed by the federal government that might be construed as infringing upon the rights of property owners.
Consequently, during a meeting on Thursday, June 26, Bandera County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that opposed new rules proposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE).
According to commissioners, these new rules, which define "waters of the United States," would have a negative impact on private property rights by vastly expanding the jurisdictional authority of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The new definition would enable the federal government to include, under their jurisdiction, waters of the state, as well as waters not previously regulated by either the CWA or judicial proclamation. These previously unregulated waters would include water in ditches, farm ponds, dry waterways and isolated wetlands.
"As an example, if heavy rains left standing water in fields, under proposed regulations the government could declare that standing water as wetlands," said Judge Richard Evans. "The federal agencies are out of touch."
Another example is a creek that is dry most of the year but begins flowing again after heavy rains. "When the starts running, a landowner may be required to provide public access to that creek," Evans said. "This is crazy."
"Pretty soon it will be illegal to harvest rainwater," noted Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King, "like it already is in Colorado."
If adopted, not only would the proposed rules prohibit the State of Texas from administering its waters appropriately, but the rules would also require counties and special districts to obtain expensive Section 404 permits from the Army Corps of Engineers prior to constructing small bridges and culverts and doing routine maintenance on some ditches, canals and other waterways. For additional information on Section 404 Permitting, visit http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/.
According to commissioners, the proposed rule would also infringe on private property rights, impairing land management activities, such as both urban development and agricultural production.
Legislation to expand the jurisdictional authority of the Clean Water Act - as set forth in the proposed rule - has already failed to pass in the US Senate. Additionally, for enacting expansive rules without congressional oversight, the EPA and ACE have already been soundly criticized in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Commissions apparently concur. "Changes like these are being enacted by administrative rule, which it's not how it's supposed to be done," Evans said. "Laws are supposed to be enacted by the people who have been elected to do just that - a legislative body."