Georgia, Other States Want Federal Waters Rule Stricken

Published By: Albany Herald; Written By: Jim Hendricks

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to strike down a new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers that he and attorneys general with other states believe is unlawful expansion of the federal governments control over local streams, land and farm.

The rule known as the “Waters of the United States” rule would give the EPA and Corps expanded regulatory control over small water bodies, including roadside ditches and short-lived streams — any area where officials with the federal agencies believe water might flow at least once a century, Olens’ office said Tuesday.

“Today I am joining with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to challenge an unlawful and unprecedented expansion of federal power over private property owners and state and local matters” said Olens, who filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

“The scope of the ‘Waters of the United States’ rule is breathtaking and will directly impact the everyday lives of Georgians, from farmers to homeowners,” Olens said. “Under this excessive and expensive rule, a farm pond, or even a homeowner’s backyard, could be subject to federal regulation. As the federal government continues to issue burdensome and unconstitutional executive directives at an alarming rate, I remain steadfast in my commitment to protect and defend the interests of Georgians.”

The filing was supported by Georgia Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black.

“Through the finalization of this rule, a clear punitive overreach of the government’s power has taken place,” Black said. “I view this as a frontal assault on private property rights; federal overreach on steroids. My sincere hope is that through this joint complaint, we will thwart yet another blatant overreach of the federal government.”

In addition to Georgia’s Olens, attorneys general of West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin are arguing the final rule put forward by the EPA and the Corps violates the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the U.S. Constitution and usurps the states’ primary responsibility for the management, protection, and care of intrastate waters and lands.

Olens said the rule, if allowed to stand, could have consequences for homeowners, farmers and others by forcing them to navigate a complex federal bureaucracy and obtain costly permits in order to perform everyday tasks like digging ditches, building fences or spraying fertilizers. Violators of the rule could be fined up $37,500 a day.

Saying the U.S. Supreme Court already has two rejected federal agencies attempts to expand their authority to include non-navigable, intrastate waters, Olens said the EPA and Corps new rule would give the agencies “virtually limitless power” over those very waters that he said Congress excluded from federal authority in the Clean Water Act.

The complaint asks the federal court to declare the rule illegal and issue an injunction to prevent the EPA and Corps from enforcing it, while also directing the agencies to write a new rule that complies with law.

This article was originally published by the Albany Herald on June 30, 2015. Click here to view the original post online →

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