By Slade Blackwell
Many Alabamians are already concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency reaching beyond its statutory bounds under the Clean Air Act to regulate Alabama’s energy generation. If Alabamians thought the EPA would surely stop there, think again.
Now the EPA is looking to expand its regulatory reach into a body of water near you. In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued a confusing opinion in Rapanos v. United States that could potentially be read to expand EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to bodies of water with a “significant nexus” to navigable waterways.
In short, the EPA is taking the Supreme Court’s lack of clarity as an opportunity to stretch its power to regulate water as far as it has been able to extend its ability to regulate gasses like carbon dioxide. Rather than recognizing the limitations of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which enables Congress to give the EPA its power, the EPA seems to find any restraint to be a mere inconvenience.
The new proposed rule would expand the EPA’s reach under the CWA by including a number of new terms in the definition of “waters of the United States.” The additions of “neighboring” and “significant nexus” would give the federal government the ability to reach into and regulate intrastate waters like never before.
Last month, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange joined other state attorneys general and governors from around the nation opposing the EPA’s most recent power grab. The opposition to the proposed rule agreed that many of “the waters and lands covered [by the proposed rule] are entirely outside of Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause….”
Alabama Farmers Federation Director of National Legislative Programs Mitt Walker noted that “this is a big issue for farmers in Alabama, but it’s also an issue for home and business owners all across the U.S.” Even the U.S. Small Business Administration has requested that the rule be withdrawn.
Alabama must protect its environment. Clean air and water are crucial to our way of life and our future. At the same time, we need not cede more authority to large federal bureaucracies like the EPA to accomplish that objective. The CWA has been a major success in cleaning up our national waters, but federal authority under the act has limits that the EPA needs to observe. The EPA’s regulatory overreach is already a problem for Alabama, and if the new rule takes effect, it could just be the beginning.
Slade Blackwell is serving his first term in the Alabama State Senate representing Jefferson and Shelby counties in District 15. For more information about Slade, visit www.sladeblackwell.com or follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @sladeblackwell. To reach him by phone, call 334-242-7851.