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Free Market Friday: Ditch the EPA rule

July 24, 2014 The Journal Record Opinion Piece by Michael C. Carnuccio

The 1972 Clean Water Act defined the waters of the United States as navigable lakes and rivers and the primary tributaries that feed them. So for 42 years, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have monitored and regulated a wide range of contaminants that could render those waters undrinkable.

In April of this year, the EPA and the Corps announced they would be expanding the definition of so-called waters of the United States to include nearly any body of water – even a temporary one – that would or could flow into those previously protected waterways.

This means the puddle that forms in your backyard after a heavy rain could be subject to inspection, regulation and even punitive fines should it trickle into, say, Lake Hefner.

Expectedly, farmers and ranchers are vehemently opposed to these new rules. If the EPA and the Corps choose to, they could easily subject farm ponds, water-filled ditches, and even a briefly flooded field to scrutiny and regulation.

It is not inconceivable that the people who produce our food might one day be standing in line begging for permits to fertilize or even plow their fields.

The EPA is busy reassuring everyone they would never do that. Of course, this is the same federal government that promised medical care for veterans and guaranteed the rest of us that if we liked our health plan we would be able to keep it.

It’s not difficult to imagine what increased EPA permitting and regulation of farmers and ranchers would lead to: less wheat, less corn, less beef, chicken and pork – less food, period. A farmer faced with delays and obstacles in, say, irrigating his field might just cash it all in and move to town.

Never mind that the states do a pretty fair job through their own agriculture and environmental departments of monitoring things like erosion and pesticide use.

Farmers and ranchers are first in line to espouse sensible land and water use; they depend on it for their very livelihood, and many are multigenerational custodians of the land.

If these new rules are adopted, EPA bureaucrats would be in a position to set farm and ranch policy, with disastrous results.

Hopefully someone will say no to this federal overreach.

Michael C. Carnuccio serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).

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