WAGUESPACK: Does Frosty The Snowman Need An EPA Permit Now?

The holiday season is off and running.

Before we have even consumed the final piece of leftover Thanksgiving turkey, the Christmas season is officially upon us. Radio stations are blasting Christmas music 24/7, retailers of all sizes are making their pitch to shoppers, and networks have already started to abandon their regular lineup for holiday-themed specials that will play out for the entire month of December.

The traditional holiday staples like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “Frosty the Snowman” are nowadays only a few of the many holiday specials that will air every night until Christmas Day. These timeless classics are enjoyed as much by children today as they were in previous generations, despite the fact that many of these films have not been updated in any noticeable way.

But, the Frosty classic may need an update before next year’s Christmas season if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has any say in it. As if the magician’s crusade to steal Frosty’s hat and watch him melt wasn’t bad enough, screenwriters will now have to write the EPA into the script to issue a federal permit for that sad, little remaining puddle of water.

This is because the EPA is plowing ahead with a new agency rule that would greatly expand federal oversight over private U.S. property and water bodies that would potentially regulate for the first time property like ditches, temporary creeks and yes, even puddles.

This EPA rule, known as “WOTUS,” would circumvent Congress and expand the current federal definition of “Waters of the United States” to regulate water on public and private property in a way that would have serious consequences on property rights, economic development and farming.

In addition to including traditional navigable waters, the EPA wants to also regulate adjacent waters and wetlands that have “directional flow paths” to regulated rivers or tributaries, such as swales, gullies, rills and ditches. These flows can even include temporary water bodies due to seasonal swells or rainfall. Basically, if water accumulates at any time for any reason, the EPA may have a hook to now come in and require a federal permit before the property can be utilized.

Imagine for a second the consequences of this. A store owner who wants to clear standing water, snow or ice from a parking lot in order to keep customers safe may now need a federal permit. A manufacturer that generates dust or dirt that could potentially flow into a neighboring ditch may now need a federal permit. A state or local highway, road, bridge, levee or other capital construction project to improve our infrastructure may now need a federal permit due to the sand, rock, gravel and other materials used to build that project. A private property owner who has a fishing pond in his backyard and a ditch to handle seasonal water movement may now need a federal permit to enjoy his/her land.

The impact of this proposed rule is enormous and its reach will affect us all. The threat of the federal government and its permitting process becoming a roadblock and time delay for most projects and activities on public and private land will increase greatly. For a state like Louisiana that lives, works and plays so close to water in many parts of our state, this rule could forever change our long-held relationship with our beloved landscape.

Even another agency in the Obama administration is raising concerns with the broad, intrusive reach of this rule.

The Small Business Association Office of Advocacy submitted comments to the EPA last month, stating the proposed rule would increase permitting costs by as much as $52 million annually and drive up mitigation costs to over $113 million every year. These amounts do not even take into account the likely cost increases to be incurred due to other Clean Water Act federal programs. The proposed comments go on to say that, “The economic analysis clearly indicates that this rule is likely to have a significant economic effect on small businesses.”

Once again, the EPA is stepping in to expand its reach into the lives of Americans without going through Congress. It obviously will continue to do so on numerous fronts until the courts or Congress make it stop its unilateral and unnecessary attacks on economic development and property rights.

Poor Frosty has enough to worry about with that nasty magician stopping at nothing to steal his magic hat and turn him into a puddle. Now, he also has to worry about the EPA playing the role of Scrooge and regulating him as a temporary puddle with a federal permit.

Enough is enough. It is time for Congress to step in, inject a little holiday cheer into the EPA and get that Grinch to back off.

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