- - Thursday, July 10, 2014

This week’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement introducing a new “rule” allowing the agency to garnish the wages of individuals to collect debts — without a court order — portends something quite serious.

It is certainly cause for alarm. After all, here we have a federal agency that has decided to give itself the power to garnish an individual’s wages, based on fines it levies on its own authority — all while removing your right to due process.

This declaration that an agency can do as it pleases is yet another, but unfortunately familiar, step in the direction of an entire bureaucracy that thinks it’s above the law.

The DailySignal.com provided the specifics of the new EPA rule: “In a FederalRegister.gov notice on July 2 titled ‘Administrative Wage Garnishment,’ the EPA stated that by the authority of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 it issued a proposed rule that ‘will allow the EPA to garnish non-federal wages to collect delinquent nontax debts owed the United States without first obtaining a court order.’”


Like good executive branch bureaucrats, they decided that, in addition to creating regulations without the benefit of congressional involvement, they would also declare themselves authorized to take your money without the pesky involvement of the courts.

Illustration on EPA's plan to collect fines through garnishment without judicial review by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times
Illustration on EPA’s plan to collect fines through garnishment without judicial review ... more >

Indeed, in addition to collecting unpaid loan payments or duplicate amounts paid to an individual, the act provides for garnishment of wages for “fines, penalties or fees assessed by federal agencies.”

When the Debt Collection Improvement Act was enacted, however, I have a feeling no one anticipated as harsh a regulatory environment, as Kafkaesque and corrupt, as what we have now — and nothing like what Andy Johnson personally experienced. According to The Washington Times, Mr. Johnson, a welder in Wyoming, built a pond on his land — for fishing, for his family and for wildlife to enjoy.

The EPA decided that his private pond violated the Clean Water Act, told him to destroy it, and threatened to fine him $75,000 a day until he did so.

Fortunately, Mr. Johnson was able to challenge this threat all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he prevailed. The EPA even initially told the Johnsons that they had no right to challenge their pond ruling in court. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Another couple also challenged the EPA bullies when they, too, were threatened with a $75,000 a day fine, if they dared to build a house on their own property. The EPA deemed their land “wetlands,” under the control of the federal government. The agency said in this case also that its judgment was final and unassailable in court.

The Supreme Court disagreed with that preposterous position as well. The Daily Signal reports, “In the ruling, Justice Scalia noted, ‘ And there is no reason to think that the Clean Water Act was uniquely designed to enable the strong-arming of regulated parties into ‘voluntary compliance’ without the opportunity for judicial review.’”

In the article, they also spoke to the lawyer for the couple: ” ‘The great inequity’ of EPA’s position was that it essentially felt that it was above the law. The agency ‘doesn’t want a federal judge ever to review’ compliance orders, he noted.”

This is the key to this new rule regarding wage garnishment. While the high court’s decisions were about Clean Water Act compliance and not the collection of fines, the issue is the same — a federal agency bullying a citizen into compliance by removing any ability to challenge its actions in court.

If the EPA wins this one, the right to judicial review may go up in smoke (which the EPA would then probably regulate).

Why would a federal agency think it could get away with this? President Obama himself has repeatedly ignored the law. Whether it be relating to Obamacare, drug laws or immigration, the president’s pen-and-phone actions have likely inspired others in this bloated regime to act on their delusions of grandeur.

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