by J.D. Heyes
Food freedom begins with land freedom, because if you have no control over your own property, you have no real control over what you can use it for, including growing your own organic foods.
And if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gets its way, what property rights you still have may vanish forever.
In a move that some lawmakers have called “the biggest land grab in the history of the world,” the EPA is moving to commandeer jurisdiction over all public and private streams in the U.S. that are “intermittent, seasonal and rain-dependent,” according to Alana Cook at WorldNetDaily.
In fact, she writes, the EPA — along with the Army Corps of Engineers — in late March released a joint proposed rule titled “Waters of the United States” in a bid to clarify just which streams and wetlands are protected under the federal Clean Water Act. A statement issued by the EPA said that “the proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act” — whatever that means.
Some lawmakers are shaking their heads.
‘Absolutely freeze economic activity’
According to congressional budget testimony [recently], Waters of the United States would give the EPA authority over streams on private property even when the water beds have been dry, in some cases for hundreds of years.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Harold Rogers, R-KY, said the “economic impact of that would be profound.”
“A community needing to build on private land that had on it one of these so-called streams that you considered a waterway under the new rule would have to travel thousands, hundreds of miles to D.C., to get approval,” Rogers said.
Rogers further argued that it “would absolutely freeze economic activity in this country.”
So much for benefiting businesses.
Rogers went on to say that the proposal is “proof in and of itself of the mal-intent of this administration toward the private sector.”
Later, when asked by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, about how the rule would affect the civil liberties of Americans and their ability to conduct business, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthey was elusive, saying only that the rule is currently posted on the EPA website for a 90-day public comment period and that the scientific basis for it has not yet been determined [read about the proposed rule here: http://www2.epa.gov].
Cook writes that the proposed rule “tinkers with the definition of ‘navigable’ waters, which was the central point” of a court battle between the EPA and the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the act.
“We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are absolutely vital to downstream communities,” McCarthy said.
“Clean water is essential to every single American, from families who rely on safe places to swim and healthy fish to eat, to farmers who need abundant and reliable sources of water to grow their crops, to hunters and fishermen who depend on healthy waters for recreation and their work, and to businesses that need a steady supply of water for operations,” she added.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, argued that the nation’s waters and wetlands “are valuable resources that must be protected today and for future generations.”
“Today’s rulemaking will better protect our aquatic resources, by strengthening the consistency, predictability, and transparency of our jurisdictional determinations,” she said. “The rule’s clarifications will result in a better public service nationwide.”
‘Uncertainties regarding agricultural exemptions’
As for the EPA chief, she explained that her agency is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further regulate 56 more farm practices that are now considered exempt under the act.
“We not only took the exemptions, but we developed this interpretive rule that identified 56 farm practices, working with USDA, so that if these farm practices are what you’re doing, you didn’t need to ask a single question about whether they’re exempt,” McCarthy said.
Critics of the plan say that kind of over-regulation would mean that the EPA — in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Energy Department and the Army Corps of Engineers — would be able to “dictate on a never-before-seen scale everything from grazing rights, food production, animal health and the use of energy on private lands,” Cook writes.
“We’re hearing from farm groups throughout the United States about uncertainties regarding agricultural exemptions,” Murkowski said. “They say it’s not so farm-friendly as the statements that have been made by your administration.”
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