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Published August 04, 2014, 09:41 AM

EPA power grab evidence of out-of-touch administration

As stewards of the land, our state’s agriculture producers and property owners take seriously the responsibility of caring for our wide open spaces.

By: John Thune, Agweek

As stewards of the land, our state’s agriculture producers and property owners take seriously the responsibility of caring for our wide open spaces. Agriculture, hunting and travel are all big business in South Dakota and greatly depend on well-maintained cropland, forestlands and wetlands. For these reasons, more than anyone, our state’s residents have a vested interest in ensuring South Dakota remains a clean and beautiful place where people can take advantage of its natural splendor.

But the Environmental Protection Agency has decided that bureaucrats in Washington know more about how to take care of our state than our residents. The EPA has been busy trying to expand its authority over the lives of Americans by arbitrarily imposing a multitude of new and expensive regulations that are leading to higher costs for middle-class families. Just this month, the EPA took it to a new level, planning to bypass our judicial system and our constitutionally protected right to due process by granting itself authority to confiscate the wages of Americans to recover nontax related fines.

The EPA circumvented the traditional rulemaking process by assuming authority to garnish wages through a “direct final rule” that was quietly published two days before the July 4 holiday. The EPA reportedly did so because it assumed the new authority to garnish wages would not be controversial. But rules, such as the EPA’s proposed Waters of the United States rule, which seeks to dramatically expand the EPA’s regulatory reach to backyards and farms across America, allowing the EPA to garnish wages of hardworking Americans is not only controversial, it is unconscionable.

One example is from a private landowner in Wyoming who received a compliance order from the EPA, threatening fines of up to $187,500 per day for building a pond on his property. More landowners will be subject to fines and penalties under the EPA’s expanded authority, and if the EPA wage-garnishing rule is allowed to move forward, private landowners could be economically crushed by the fines garnished from their wages without a court order.

On July 16, the EPA pulled the direct final rule because of the public backlash from Congress and the American public. But EPA officials have said they will continue to pursue this authority through traditional rulemaking, and I plan to fight this proposal at every opportunity.

The EPA continues to pander to the extremist environmental groups by imposing costly, job-killing regulations on American families and businesses. As middle-class families struggle to make ends meet under higher energy costs and fewer jobs, the EPA’s agenda and its pursuit to garnish wages from individuals is yet another example of how this administration is out of touch with South Dakota.

Editor’s note: Thune is a Republican Senator from South Dakota.