"The ‘waters of the U.S.' rule may be one of the most significant private property grabs in U.S. history, and it needs to be withdrawn," said Vitter. "The recent court of appeals decision increases my concerns about abuse of the Clean Water Act, and should terrify landowners. When a small business has played by the rules only to find overzealous bureaucrats going after them - claiming they can designate private property as wetlands at any juncture and preventing the small business from having legal recourse. This needs to be challenged."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) told a small business in Louisiana that its private property contained federal wetlands, even though previous Corps policy indicated the land was not subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The Corps also indicated that this reversal could not be challenged in a court of law, and the Fifth Circuit issued a decision agreeing with the Corps' position. This means the small business must accept the Corps' determination, no matter the evidence to contrary, forcing the company to go through a costly and time-consuming permit process in order to move forward with development plans. The proposed "waters of the U.S." rule will only increase the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps to put landowners in this type of binding position, with fewer protections of private property rights.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, an organization that provides legal support for private property rights, has challenged the Fifth Circuit ruling and is petitioning the Supreme Court for review of the case. Read more here.