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Report: EPA Exceeds Its Authority With Proposed Rules

Congress should use the appropriations process to reassert its authority over the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a Heritage Foundation issue brief released Tuesday.

The report, written by scholar Daren Bakst, identifies three issues on which the EPA has proposed rules and regulations that exceed its authority. In all three cases, Bakst recommends that Congress prohibit the agency from using its funding to implement the proposals. (RELATED: EPA Overrides Congress, Hands Over Town to Indian Tribes)

According to the report, “the EPA is using the regulatory process to require greenhouse gas emission reductions even as Congress has been unwilling to take such drastic actions.” Bakst considers this alarming, because most energy use involves some emissions, meaning the proposed regulations would “touch on almost every facet of Americans’ lives.” (RELATED: EPA Admits Climate Rule Will Raise Electricity Prices)

Regardless of one’s opinion in the global warming debate, with so much at stake, “elected and accountable legislators—not government bureaucrats—should be making the deci­sion.”

The EPA has also exceeded its mandate with regard to standards for ground-level ozone, which is a main component in smog. Recently, the EPA proposed reducing the acceptable ozone level from 75 parts per billion to 60, which the agency estimates could cost “as much as $90 billion per year.”

An independent study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers found that the proposed regulations would reduce GDP by an average of $270 billion per year, cause the average annual loss of 2.9 million job-equivalents, and impose $2.2 trillion in compliance costs between 2017 and 2040, which would make the new standards “the costliest regulation in United States history.”

The third overreach examined in the report is a proposed rule that would expand the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA), forcing private property owners “to obtain permits from the federal government far more often than they already do now when seeking to use and enjoy their land.”

Under the new rule, the definition of “navigable waters” would include man-made ditches and “tributaries that have ephem­eral flow, such as depressions in land that are dry most of the year except when there is heavy rain.” (RELATED: EPA Preparing to Unleash a Deluge of New Regulations)

Although the Constitution vests lawmaking power in Congress, the issues discussed in the report demonstrate that, “for all practical purposes, Congress has given much of this power away to agen­cies such as the EPA,” which have no accountability to voters. The solution, according to Bakst, “is for Congress to use the power of the purse…and rein in the agency when it proposes bad or unauthorized policy.”

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