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Senators: EPA Grants Itself Excessive Authority with New Rule to Garnish Wages from Private Citizens
July 10, 2014

Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the letter, the Senators request that the Agency withdraw its direct final rule on administrative wage garnishment, which would allow EPA to collect money from private citizens without first obtaining a court order.

"While we recognize the government's legitimate interest in efficiently and effectively pursuing delinquent debt, EPA's new wage garnishment procedures provide an agency prone to regulatory abuses with even more power over Americans. Individuals who face threats of ruinous fines from the agency may now have to think twice before challenging EPA over its regulatory jurisdiction," wrote the Senators. "Given the agency's repeated failure to manage its own personnel, it makes little sense for EPA to have the authority to garnish wages of private citizens without a court order, when the agency is apparently unable to properly oversee wage payments to its own employees or otherwise restrict the distribution of unearned pension benefits."

"It's ironic that as we were preparing to celebrate Independence Day and our freedoms, the EPA was quietly seeking another way to take away some of those freedoms," said Enzi. "I appreciate Senator Vitter's leadership in the effort to rein in this abuse."

"The EPA's latest regulatory overreach is another one-two punch to responsible Americans who are trying to provide for their families. First, this out of control agency can fine you hundreds of thousands of dollars for simply building a pond on your own land. Now, the EPA is trying to bypass the courts and force your employers to garnish your wages to cover their expensive fines," said Barrasso. "Our letter makes it clear that the agency should not move forward with this rule. Americans across the country need to join us in contacting the EPA immediately and telling them that their rule is dead on arrival. We will work together to do everything possible to make sure this rule never takes effect."

In the letter, the Senators note the case a private landowner in Wyoming who received an EPA compliance order with terms threatening fines of up to $187,500 per day for building a pond on his property. The Senators also note that case of a West Virginia poultry farmer whom EPA threatened with civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day because stormwater, which had flowed across her property, ended up in a "water of the United States." The Senators note EPA's new garnishment rule could chill challenges to similar regulatory abuses.

Click here to read today's letter.

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