by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Senior Fellow at the John Locke Foundation and former secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Don van der Vaart, is hoping President Trump lays out the next steps for his federal rule change to the Clean Water Act (CWA) at Sunday’s American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.
In an opinion piece published today in Carolina Journal, Dr. van der Vaart laid out exactly what problems he is hoping the new rule will fix. Under the Obama administration, the definition of private lands that can be regulated under CWA changed. Dr. van der Vaart explains:
Under President Obama’s redefinition, much more of North Carolina, and virtually all of our state east of Interstate 95, would have been designated as Waters of the United States. Land that is designated as wetlands is subject to land-use restrictions that are intended to protect streams and rivers. However, the overly broad definition composed by Obama’s bureaucrats in Washington would have done nothing to protect water quality. The rule would have had a disproportionate impact on our farmers by reducing their land values and forcing them through lengthy permitting red tape before making changes in their land’s use.
The Supreme Court declared Obama’s rule an overreach. van der Vaart writes:
At the core of the issue is the extent of the authority of the federal government. The Clean Water Act does not regulate waters of the United States based on the likelihood of their contributing pollution to actual navigable waters. It regulates anything that is navigable. As EPA legal experts have explained, even if the CWA targeted pollution, implementation would still be limited by the authority granted to the federal government by the states in the U.S. Constitution.
States are free to go beyond WOTUS — and North Carolina already does — to regulate whatever waters or land it believes necessary. States have far better knowledge of what lands need to be regulated than bureaucrats in Washington. Without amending the CWA consistent with the Constitution, however, the EPA cannot and should not attempt to expand its control of private property.
Read the full piece here.