November 17, 2014 Journal Record Our administration never ceases to amaze me. Power grabs seem to be the new norm.
The latest installment of federal overreach can be found right in your backyard. Ever heard the term “navigable waters”? Ever think you could have such a waterway on your property in the middle of the suburbs? A topic that would traditionally be discussed in communities near waterways could stretch to the majority of Oklahomans and Americans even during a historic drought.
Obama and his administration are redefining the term “navigable water.” Initially shot down in the court system, the second attempt is in motion, with the new definition as any water location that could get to a navigable water – a change that will redefine when and where a Clean Water Act permit is required. The result would be sweeping implications for everyone building on, developing or farming land.
In a way previously unconsidered by any administration, this alters all land use and local zoning laws. The rule would seem to include things like ditches, ephemeral drainages, ponds, prairie potholes, seeps, flood plains, and other occasionally wet areas, removing the need for the water to indeed be “navigable.”
If the administration succeeds, we will witness the largest land grab of private property in history. Any local decision for oil and gas exploration and production, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, etc., would be greatly delayed while you wait for a federal permit. The federal government has held the Keystone XL permit for six years because the White House does not like the project. How long will you have to wait for your construction permit if a federal official doesn’t like your project?
For the oil and gas industry in particular, this new definition would severely limit development and force activity to locations that aren’t beneficial to anyone, including landowners and royalty owners – all because of a ditch or pothole. Common sense says navigable waters should be defined as a place where one can move a boat from point A to point B – not just a plastic toy boat from a bathtub.
We must ensure those with local knowledge and a large personal stake in the environmental resources are allowed to find solutions that meet their needs. We do not need a federal permission slip for everything we build and develop.
Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford is a U.S. senator-elect.