One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Clint Eastwood’s iconic Dirty Harry Callahan uttered one of the greatest movie lines of all time: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” It would appear no one in Washington, D.C. has ever heard of Harry or his weighty wisdom.
No one in our nation’s capitol seems to think they are limited in any way. Not by any personal shortcomings – it’s like everyone who enters the city limits thinks they magically transmogrify from Clark Kent into Superman. And they certainly find no limits placed upon them by anything as quaint and antiquated as the Constitution.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a classic example of very limited men and women behaving boundlessly. To begin, it can be easily argued that the Agency shouldn’t even exist. The federal government’s powers must by the Constitution be expressly enumerated – and nowhere therein does it get anywhere near enumerating what is being done by the EPA.
I have the “1800 Rule” (the year, not the tequila). If a government agency or program was created after 1800 – it most likely shouldn’t exist. Because in 1800 the guys who created the government – were running the government. They knew what they intended it to do – and by 1800 were having it do it. The EPA was founded on December 2, 1970 – just a little past the sell-by date.
For the sake of argument, let’s move past the EPA’s unconstitutional existence – and look at it as just another Executive Branch agency. Which means it is actually a creation and creature of the Legislative Branch – Congress. The EPA can not do anything unless and until Congress first passes a law that says “Hey EPA – do this.”
Think anyone in the EPA recognizes this limitation? It would appear not. They issue power grab after power grab – again and again far exceeding the limits emplaced by Congress and its legislation. In the apparent hope that with such volume – some will slip by the Constitutional backstops. For every court decision stopping one grab – two or three (or four, or…) slam through.
But of course the EPA also rejects limits emplaced by the Judicial Branch. If they don’t like a court ruling – they’ll just make a similar, often bigger power grab all over again. And over again. To wit: The EPA’s serial overreaches beyond the bounds of the Clean Water Act – to again and again reimpose their “Waters of the United States” uber-regulatory-overreach.
The EPA has twice already tried to unilaterally over-expand its authority over the nation’s waterways. Twice the Supreme Court has pushed them back. But we don’t need no stinking limitations – the EPA has issued a third, even huger “Waters of the U.S.” power grab.
Under this sweeping seizure, if after a deluge rainwater temporarily collects in a recessed area on your land – the EPA can deem your entire property a waterway, and thus unusable by you. This is a giant pain in the keister for anyone under any circumstance. If you’re a farmer or a rancher – anyone who makes their living off their land – it’s devastating. So yet again, people who can’t afford to do so are forced to file lawsuits against the EPA.
Meanwhile, how is the EPA doing with the waterways over which they already lord? Not so well. For instance, they just spilled three million gallons of wastewater into Colorado’s Animas River. Turning it a Tang-Gatorade day glow orange – and setting up a lengthy, multi-multi-million-dollar clean up.
It would appear the men and the women of the EPA are sorely limited in what they can do – and thus what they should actually be doing. They should try to get a better handle on things – before trying to handle even more things.
Everything would be a whole lot better – and a whole lot less orange. Dirty Harry understands it – as does everyone outside the self-delusionally-mesmerizing confines of the Beltway.