25 US senators accused the Obama administration
By Roxanne James

Obama Accused of Misleading Americans over Clean Water Act

The slightest amendment to the wording of legislation can wreak havoc, as proven by the Obama administration in relation to its proposed change to the US Clean Water Act, originally passed in 1977.

The proposal consists of removing one word in the definition of 'Waters of the United States' (WOTUS) which serves to conserve and protect the nation's clean water sources.

The word in question is "navigable".

Property rights of every American at the mercy of EPA

It's a pretty significant word in terms of it use in the definition of "wetlands" under the proposed legislation. Will the new law change apply to everything from a puddle or a piece of land that experiences occasional flooding through to the current definition of "navigable" waters?

The principal reason behind rising concerns is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extensive powers of enforcement when it comes to the Clean Water Act. There are very real fears that the proposed amendment could turn into a government land grab, putting "the property rights of every American entirely at the mercy of EPA employees".

The proposal provides the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers powers to dictate land-use decisions of homeowners, small businesses and local communities across the US. Critics have said that "there would be virtually no limit to the federal government's authority over private property in the USA".

In a recent letter to the EPA and the Corps, 25 US senators accused the Obama administration of misleading Americans on the proposed rule, detailing the administration's deceptions and bias:

Obama's administration claim the rule amendment responds to prior requests for a Clean Water Act rulemaking - the senators argue that this is not the case.

The administration suggests that opposition to the proposed rule is akin to opposing clean water - the senators dismiss this completely.

The senators also claim that EPA's use of social media in support of the proposed rule is an attempt to delegitimise questions and concerns and undermine opposing views.

The more credible voice in this debate belongs to affected parties. The American Farm Bureau started an opposition movement called '#DitchTheRule' and set out to illustrate how EPA and Army Corps of Engineers would regulate the legislation if the rule takes effect: "Wetlands" that are nothing more than low spots on a farm field, the decorative pond of a suburban home or even a vacant lot the agency designates as possessing the requisite wetness.

'Ditch The Rule' suggests that the EPA or Corps would have rights to order owners to cease activity and restore original conditions even if it's just a farmer filling in low spots in his land, a homeowner building a garden shed near a pond or a business constructing offices on a plot deemed to be classed as "wetlands".

Non-compliance with the proposed rule could bring hefty financial penalties and so concerns are completely legitimate and entirely understandable. Fines can be as much as $75,000 per day - $37,500 for violating the rule and another $37,500 for violation of the agency's order.

It will be very interesting to see how this issue pans out in the US and whether the Obama administration is as responsive to the concerns of its electorate as it gives lip-service to.


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