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Bad For The West

 Almost daily, one can read or hear about an issue that has come out of Washington, D.C. that will make life and business more challenging for those in the western part of the nation. We are reluctant to call it a “War on the West,” as we referred to these actions in year’s past. In truth, it is hard to see the U.S. at war with itself. That’s just not America. 

But, in truth, a war is happening weekly against the western states, as imposed by the current administration. The worst part is, they are going around Congress to do it. Whether it is climate change, clean water, fuel efficiency or management of public lands, decisions on these issues should work their way through the proper systems, not just through federal overreach by the White House. 

The White House has really pushed a proposed rule that would define “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. Remember, this came about in a 2006 Supreme Court decision and opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy that said an isolated water, like a stock pond or a ditch, doesn’t have to have a surface water connection to a downstream navigable water to be considered a “waters of the United States.” 

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the plurality opinion on the case, and his opinion differed from Kennedy’s by saying that “only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water” like streams, rivers and lakes should be included. Justice Scalia specifically noted that “waters of the United States” do not include channels that only hold water periodically and are only wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies of water that are “waters of the United States.”

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers chose to base the final rule on the Kennedy opinion. 

That is one concern that 231 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives raised in a letter to the EPA and the Corp. 

“Contrary to your agencies claims, this would directly counteract prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of the Clean Water Act authority,” the lawmakers stated in the letter. It went on to say that, “Based on legally and scientifically unsound view of the ‘significant nexus’ concept ruled by Justice Kennedy, the rule would place features such as ditches, ephemeral drainages, ponds (natural or manmade), prairie potholes, seeps, flood plains and other occasionally or seasonally wet areas under federal control.”

Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) says the proposal is a massive power grab that must be stopped. Hastings commented, “Under this plan, there would be no body of water in America, including mud puddles and canals, that wouldn’t be at risk from job destroying federal regulations.” 

More than 84 organizations representing farmers and ranchers across the country and over half of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives are showing bipartisan support for the letter calling on the rule to be withdrawn. 

Some in the White House last week were bragging on circumventing Congress last week, and that doesn’t help matters. We don’t need those in Congress just voting the party line. They need to vote the right or wrong line.