EPA power grab could hit landowners with hefty fines

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Farm Forum

South Dakota is scattered with creeks, stock ponds, and ditches. In wetter years, the creeks run a little faster and the stock ponds fill and may even overflow, but landowners generally know what they need to do to plan ahead and manage the water on their properties. These small and seasonal bodies of water have typically been regulated at the state level, but a costly new power grab from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could have devastating economic impacts on South Dakota farmers, ranchers, homeowners, and businesses.

On March 25, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule that includes broad new definitions of the scope of “waters of the United States” that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The proposed definition and potential regulatory action could apply to a countless number of small wetlands, creeks, prairie potholes, and ditches. This expansion of the EPA’s regulatory authority would have significant economic impacts for property owners who would likely be hit with new federal permits, compliance costs, and threats of significant fines.

This isn’t the first time the EPA has tried to expand its authority. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in rejecting the EPA’s past attempts to unilaterally expand its authority to regulate non-navigable bodies of water under the Clean Water Act. Congress has also demonstrated strong opposition to the EPA’s expanded authority to regulate small and seasonal bodies of water. During the Senate’s consideration of the Water Resources Development Act in May of 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators voted to reject the EPA’s Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Guidance, which would have provided the EPA with broad control over all non-navigable waters.

I have serious concerns about the impact the EPA’s proposed expansion over small and seasonal bodies of water could have on South Dakota property owners. That’s why I recently sent a letter along with several of my Republican House and Senate colleagues to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding my opposition to the EPA’s efforts to expand its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. Property owners could face direct and indirect costs from additional permit application expenses, mitigation requirements, and environmental analysis. If found in violation of these requirements, farmers, ranchers, homeowners, and businesses could be assessed thousands of dollars per day in fines and penalties.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to block these heavy-handed EPA regulations and ensure that property owners throughout South Dakota and across the country are not saddled with expensive permits and fines.