Proposed Water Rule Could Put ‘Property Rights of Every American Entirely at the Mercy’ of EPA

Photo Credit: Ryan Coleman / Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Ryan Coleman / Creative Commons

It seems incredible, but a single missing word could turn a water law into a government land grab so horrendous even a U.S. Supreme Court justice warned it would “put the property rights of every American entirely at the mercy of Environmental Protection Agency employees.”

The missing word is “navigable.” The Obama administration is proposing a rule titled “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act,” which would strike “navigable” from American water law and redefine any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year, no matter how remote or isolated it may be from truly navigable waters, as “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS.

The proposed rule would provide EPA and the Corps of Engineers (as well as litigious environmental groups) with the power to dictate the land-use decisions of homeowners, small businesses and local communities throughout the United States. There would be virtually no limit to the federal government’s authority over private property.

The proposed rule has ignited a firestorm of protest. Agricultural and business interests, free-market think tanks, state agencies, attorneys general and governors have joined the “Ditch the Rule” movement and demanded it be withdrawn.

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