by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
This week, the administration “finalized a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands, and groundwater,” the Times notes. The rollback of the “Waters of the United States” allows disreputable landowners to “dump pollutants” “directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways.” The move will prove a boon to farmers, land developers, fossil-fuel producers, and, conspicuously, golf course owners. Moreover, these weakened environmental protections provide the president with “a major policy achievement to bring to his political base while his impeachment trial continues.”
Without being stated plainly, a clearer portrait of nefarious self-dealing could not be more clearly implied. There’s a reason the author limits herself to implication, though, and it isn’t reportorial standards of impartiality. The truth of the matter isn’t nearly as lopsided as the Times suggests.
In May 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency unilaterally announced its intention to expand its capacity to regulate navigable waterways and their tributaries. …
… Landowners understandably feared that this permissive new definition of what constitutes a waterway could apply to almost any soggy plot. And if affected landowners wanted special dispensation, they would have to appeal to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permits, which were to be considered only on an individual basis. In practice, a rancher and farmers seeking the permission of the federal government to level a road through private property or even plow and plant crops would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on compliance costs alone. …
… The predictable effect of this rule was to make the land in private hands far less useful and, therefore, less valuable. The prohibitive burdens placed on landowners were, in the not undue estimation of this regulation’s critics, the point of the exercise.