- - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If you like your shower, you probably can’t keep it once the Obama administration bureaucrats are done.

Nobody can altogether escape regulations, not even when bathing in the altogether. The Environmental Protection Agency denies wanting to compel us to shorten our showers, but that’s like President Obama denying you will lose your current doctor under Obamacare.

EPA is funding research to create hotel guest monitoring systems so the front desk can track your shower time and water usage. It’s the scariest thing since Hitchcock staged the deadly shower scene in “Psycho.”

The next step could be a water-use surcharge on your room bill. Then coin-operated systems, probably locating the slot across the room and making you walk to it, dripping everywhere. Then we may see shower-snooper systems required in every home. It’s part of the EPA’s “War on Women and Men,” launched when Congress mandated low-flow showerheads back in 1992 with George H.W. Bush’s approval.

EPA officials sent Americans a message last year when they approved funding to design the new CIA (Cleanliness Inspection Agency) to spy on us in the shower. As federal grants go, it’s tiny: $15,000 to the University of Tulsa. But that’s only for Phase 1 of a project “to build and test a working prototype and to conduct a preliminary market analysis.”

What problem do they hope to solve? The grant papers state: “Millions of gallons of potable water are wasted every year by hotel guests. The proposed work aims to develop a novel low-cost wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel guest room showers. This device will be designed to fit most new and existing hotel shower fixtures and will wirelessly transmit hotel guest water usage data to a central hotel accounting system.”


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The goal? “Modifying their behavior.”

If this truly were a problem, the $15,000 cost of the study would be a drop in the bucket to America’s lodging industry, which brings in $41 billion a year. But the hospitality industry is all about indulging us. It’s the EPA, not the industry, that wants to lower our standard of living.

By initiating the study, the EPA is telling the industry to install these systems — or else. It’s the classic pattern of bureaucracies: What starts as a suggestion soon becomes a guideline, grows into a recommendation, matures into a policy, then graduates to a regulatory mandate. That means prison is threatened for those who won’t comply.

Regulations become prosecutorial discretion gone amok. The Supreme Court just heard arguments in United States v. Yates, to decide whether a fisherman can be prosecuted for destruction of evidence because he threw back fish that regulations stated were undersized. According to federal prosecutors, the fish were evidence that he had illegally caught too many little fish. By devoting resources to this minor offense, prosecutors undoubtedly let some big fish get away.

A New York contractor got six years in jail for not having workers wear anti-asbestos protective gear; he was charged under Clean Air Act regulations. We are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of regulations, so many that a determined government can easily find excuses to prosecute whomever it finds troublesome. To cite just one example, whistleblowers collectively have been sentenced to 526 months in prison by Obama administration prosecutors.

We don’t need government penalties for taking too long in the shower. It’s bad enough to face a family member who is upset that you used all the hot water. But facing prison is altogether different.

The feds have a bad record of being anti-shower. Low-flow showerheads (2.5 gallons-per-minute max) were mandated by the 1992 Clean Water Act, along with the infamous 1.6 gallons-per-flush toilets. But vendors created multi-nozzle showers as one workaround — until Mr. Obama’s presidency. His bureaucrats in 2010 reinterpreted the law and declared that all nozzles combined cannot exceed 2.5 GPMs. They filed lawsuits against those who disagreed.

We still have the alternative of civil disobedience. Many people remove the flow restrictor or drill a larger hole in the fitting when they buy a new showerhead, all to get a precious few more of those GPMs.

The EPA now has re-escalated the fight by working to limit our time in the shower. The agency always tries new angles, demonstrating its fluidity with a constant drip-drip-drip that reduces our freedom one bit at a time.

To the left-wingers who dominate the executive branch, it’s all about controlling behavior that they don’t like. Yes, people do things that liberals find nonsensical. We want to buy light bulbs that don’t cost $7 each, want school lunches that taste good enough to eat, want to buy big cars, and we want the simple luxury of a long shower. That’s what freedom is all about, right?

Restricting freedom via regulations makes Americans mad. It gets even worse if we can’t even use one of the best ways to settle down and relax — by taking a nice long shower.

Former Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook is president of Americans for Less Regulation.

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