This week, an alarming video detailing a public EPA meeting became available on the Internet:
In the video, Al Amerdariz, a top EPA official for five states, likened the government’s strategy for compliance with that of the Roman Empire. Like the Romans, the EPA sought to “find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.” To spread fear for its authority, the EPA would “make examples of out of people who are in this case not complying with the law.” That’s shock and awe with a vengeance.
Perhaps it isn’t all that surprising to hear so remarkably dreadful comments from the chief enforcer of environmental purity these days. This is an agency entrusted with a budget hovering from eight to ten billion dollars annually. And it is an agency that has attacked hardworking Americans when they try to develop land in the desert, calling it a wetland, or to move dirt out of their swamp, deeming it a violation of federal environmental law.
Justice Scalia, writing in Rapanos v. U.S., explained that those who might disturb the “waters of the United States” must go through an EPA permit process that entails more than two years of administrative delay with an average cost of $271,596 to complete the process. And “waters of the United States” aren’t as wet as you might think. They include swamps, desert land, and property more than 10 miles away from the nearest navigable water. When deciding whether to grant permits (to use your land), the EPA considers such weighty factors as “aesthetics,” “the needs and welfare of the people,” and “recreation.” Or, as Justice Scalia put it, the EPA acts with the “discretion of an enlightened despot.”
Just this term, the Supreme Court decided Sackett v. EPA, and injected a short dose of commonsense into the EPA’s operations. In Sackett, after years of litigation, the Court finally held that citizens have a right to bring the EPA to court over these issues instead of being trapped in administrative proceedings for years. Now, the real battle must progress through the courts, with the Sacketts waiting all the while to build a home on their land, or what the EPA calls a “wetland.” Give it another ten years and maybe the Sacketts can build their home. Maybe.
Mr. Amerdariz’s recently leaked comments expose a shocking disrespect by the federal government of our natural rights. Founding father John Jay explained that no power on “earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.” Today, the EPA takes our property not through outright theft but in shackling people in the never-escapable administrative state. Given the reach of the EPA’s authority, its continued losses in the courts, and its enormous budget, the agency’s zeal to crucify individuals for using property as they see fit is a most dangerous development.
The Wyoming Liberty Group is not afraid to stand in defense of our fundamental freedoms. Even in the wake of a national crucifixion, a commitment to first principles and the rigorous advocacy of our constitutional rights is the surest remedy for their revival.