This isn't good.
The take over of America is almost complete.
S.787 Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA)
Hope many of you had a chance to watch democracy in action. In a mere one hour and seventeen minutes the EPW sailed through the CWRA S.787 (actually a slightly modified alternative amendment worked out yesterday by Baucus-Klobuchar-Boxer.) The Baucus "compromise" was largely window dressing, maintaining the existing CWA exemptions for some agricultural activities in the new CWRA. This was to lure farmers into supporting the CWRA. At best it might have gained them one farm organization.
S. 787 as amended passed and was reported favorably to the Senate. The vote was 12-7 on straight party lines.
Senators Inhofe, Vitter and Barrasso were heroic in their efforts to defend private property rights and states' water rights and prevent most of the American land and water from effectively being Federalized/nationalized.
Inhofe made an excellent opening statement and subsequent comments. Said the bill was not fixable, but that there was no way to stop it in committee. He vowed a very robust effort to defeat it on the floor. Said it is a dagger aimed right at the heart of rural America.
Vitter noted this bill is a radical change in the CWA moving from regulation of navigable waters to regulation of all waters of the US. He submitted two amendments.
One to allow the president to override the CWRA in the case of natural disasters such as hurricanes, so that recovery efforts would not be delayed or halted. Boxer said public health would be compromised if exemptions were provided. Carper said Vitter's amendment would undermine the intent of the bill.
Boxer and Carper argued they weren't expanding any government authority - simply returning to the authority of the CWA prior to the SWANCC and Rapanos decisions, i.e., restoring the authority of the CWA. (Boxer repeated that theme over and over.)
Vitter responded that it restores nothing that was ever in the CWA - instead it returns to the vastly expansive definition of navigable which federal bureaucrats had achieved in order to usurp powers not grated to the Federal government (such as the migratory bird rule, the "glancing goose test"), which was why the Supreme Court had to step in and point out that navigable meant navigable.
It was defeated on a voice vote.
Vitter offered another amendment to include language that the use of mosquito control pesticides would never be required to obtain permits under the CWRA. Worried about this preventing control of diseases such as West Nile. Said FIFRA already adequately regulates their use. There have been movements to require such permits and there are currently cases in court. Boxer responded that Obama has issued a two-year stay or moratorium on such regulations - so nothing to worry about. Vitter insisted that it was necessary to resolve the uncertainty and a temporary stay was insufficient.
Defeated on a voice vote and a roll call vote.
Barrasso then offered a series of amendments, basically aimed at restricting the vast new "wetlands" listed as waters of the US.
First was to prohibit the Federal government from taking all streams and intermittent streams within a state. Said there was no authority for the US to seize jurisdiction over state streams. "No one in WDC has the right to seize and control our streams." And they were already adequately protected under state laws. And that streams that only flowed when storm water runoff filled them would be placed under control of Washington. Defeated on voice vote.
Next amendment to prevent Federal government from taking all mudflats in the 50 states. Boxer objected to saying the environmentalists were special interest groups, they were just trying to protect our beautiful places. Defeated on voice vote and on a roll call vote by 13-6. I believe it was Voinovich who crossed. (It was difficult to hear the clerk announce the roll call vote and the votes themselves.)
Next amendment to prevent US takeover of all prairie potholes in the states, with vast numbers being on private farmland and ranchland. Voice vote sounded close so Boxer asked for a roll call vote. 13-6 against.
Next Barrasso amendment to prohibit Federal takeover of all wet meadows. Defeated on voice vote.
Next amendment to prevent EPA takeover of all natural ponds. It nationalizes all natural ponds on private lands. Defeated by voice vote.
Boxer asked Barrasso if he had any more amendments. He responded yes. She replied "Boy you are a glutton for punishment." (So much for respect for property rights and the Fifth Amendment.)
Next amendment. To protect and exempt agriculture under the CWRA. Boxer said this would create an enormous loophole for pollution by famers. Defeated on voice vote.
Next amendment prohibits controls on animal farming: cattle, sheep, goats, fish, crawfish, etc. Defeated on voice vote.
Last Barrasso amendment required that specific language be inserted in the bill to clearly exempt ground water from the regulatory authority of the CWRA. Said while the findings suggest that ground water is not included, that was insufficient. Need unambiguous language. Boxer replied that doing so would weaken the bill! Defeated on voice vote and then on a roll call vote. Inhofe then asked that his name also be attached to all of the amendments.
Then Boxer called for the vote on S.787 as amended and it very quickly passed 12-7.
Now we wait to see what happens in the Senate and what Rep. Oberstar does in the House.
Senator Inhofe said in committee that there is no chance of the CWRA passing on the Senate floor. And in a post-mark-up press release reiterated that "The CWRA faces certain demise if it ever reaches the Senate floor."
Also Senator Crapo placed a hold on the bill.
Let's hope that Senator Inhofe's optimism is well founded.
Meanwhile it is important that anyone who has examples of CWA horror stories of landowners - or any projects - tied up in years of costly red tape and permits, staggering court costs, and fines or imprisonment for carrying out legitimate activities on private land - please submit them to us. Especially if you have documentation such as newspaper stories.
The supporters of the CWRA are arguing that it is simply an attempt to return to the innocuous CWA pre-SWANCC, when the law did nothing but make our waters safe for drinking, swimming and fishing.
We need additional stories similar to those of the imprisonment of Ocie Mills and his son in FL for 21 months; John Pozsgai in PA for 18 months as part of a three-year sentence; Bill Ellen in MD for 6 months; etc., to demonstrate the vast overreach of the CWA and precisely why the Supreme Court had to step in.
And that returning to those unlimited powers - and in fact giving the Feds ever broader authority to regulate anything and everything would be a disaster.
Remember the case of the Gaston Roberge and his wife in Maine. They had owned a 2.8 acre commercial lot in the town of Old Orchard Beach for 20 years. Purchased originally to pay for their retirement.
In the mid-1970s they had allowed the town to deposit excavated dirt from a sewer line project on one half acre. When they attempted to sell the lot in 1986 the Corps told them it was a wetlands and they had violated the CWA by illegally dumping fill on it and were order to remove it.
They spent 8 years fighting through the green tape and with mounting frustration and costs finally went to court. In the discovery process they located an internal Corps memo recommending "Roberge would be a good one to squash and set an example" - in order to create a climate of fear among landowners and developers. Subsequently the Corps dropped the charges and paid some compensation to Roberge - but nowhere near enough to make him whole.
That attitude of the Federal bureaucrats of squashing people to set an example demonstrates the CWA had long ago been converted from water protection to an exercise in naked political power.
If you have such horror stories please send them to [email protected]
Or mail them c/o NCPPR, Capitol Court, N.E., Suite 200, Washington, D.C 20002.
And for information on the CWRA, many documents and papers and links to other sites visit the National Center's CWRA webpage: http://www.nationalcenter.org/CWRA.html