EDITORIAL: EPA regulates water

Life-giving substances shouldn’t be treated as pollutants

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The environmentalist movement has gone off the deep end. It’s bad enough that the courts have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to declare carbon dioxide, one of the essential components of life on this planet, to be a pollutant. Now the same bureaucratic zealots are going after water itself.

On Friday, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II appeared in federal district court in Alexandria to contest the EPA’s use of the Clean Water Act to punish Virginia and Fairfax County for sending too much water into a watershed. “These regulations are expensive, cumbersome and incredibly difficult to implement,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “And if we can’t stop this from happening in Fairfax County, it’s bound to happen across the state over and over again and at a huge price tag to the taxpayers of the commonwealth.”

The EPA’s latest action is a classic example of how Washington agencies constantly expand their purpose. Congress first adopts legislation bearing a title nobody could reasonably oppose — who’s against clean water? Over time, the courts and bureaucrats systematically extend the meaning of formerly innocuous definitions. Now instead of keeping lead out of drinking water, the agency is keeping water out of creeks.

Specifically, the agency has established a set of limits for the amount of water that can flow into Accotink Creek, which runs through Fairfax County and drains into the Potomac. The Virginia Department of Transportation and the county are on the hook for storm water that falls from the sky onto county and city roads. This water then flows into storm drains that empty into the creek. EPA hypothesizes that heavy water flows stir up “sediment,” which does fall under the Clean Water Act’s definitions. Instead of going after sediment levels directly, however, EPA has declared it can go ahead and directly target water-flow levels, which Mr. Cuccinelli says goes too far in pushing the jurisdictional envelope.

According to documents filed with the court, complying with the EPA’s bizarre rule would cost state and local governments $320 million. Mr. Cuccinelli told the court this could result in the loss of homes, as “efforts to achieve such a reduction in storm-water flow as demanded by EPA would require significant public takings of private property in order to build numerous new storm-water management structures.”

Even if VDOT and Fairfax County jump through the federal hoops, there’s no guarantee that the insects, birds and algae in Accotink Creek will see any improvement in the quality of their life. The real control of the amount of water that flows into the creek is in the hands of Mother Nature, not Uncle Sam. That’s why the court should step in and shut down the EPA’s latest power grab.

The Washington Times

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