The Supreme Court will decide whether the EPA can make rules that will cost 30% more to implement than the gains it could produce. Are they allowed to make up regulations without thinking about what they will cost to implement or whether they are worth the costs? More than 20 states, along with industry groups and energy companies, are challenging new limits for emissions under the Clean Air Act. A brief from the National Mining Association says, “No rational person would see spending $9.6 billion for $4 million to $6 million in return as an appropriate exchange.” The Clean Air Act requires regulations to be “appropriate and necessary.” By common sense, appropriate would seem to include cost-benefit analysis, but the EPA doesn’t think so. These rules are for the good for everyone, whatever they might cost. The New York Times says the challenge “threatens to undermine one of the administration’s most significant victories and chip away at President Obama’s legacy.” If that legacy is one of unprecedented government overreach, we are just fine with it being undermined. Environmental law experts say the Supreme Court’s decision in this case may provide some hints about how the next set of rules might fare. Specifically, regulations on ozone pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are set to be finalized before the new year. The EPA’s newly-released regulation agenda shows there are likely more battles in store: Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Power Plants. As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, in September 2013, the EPA proposed standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants yet to be built. This past June, we proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, the Clean Power Plan. We plan to finalize standards for both new and existing plants in 2015. When finalized, these standards and guidelines will establish achievable limits of carbon pollution from future plants. By 2030 carbon emissions from existing plants are estimated to be reduced by 30% from 2005 levels. The EPA is also planning changes to the Clean Water Act. The agency wants to redefine a body of water so it can control every drop of water in the United States. The EPA was originally given authority over navigable bodies of water used in inter-state commerce. It was an arbitrator where state rights overlapped. Now they want to broadly expand what is included as “a water of the United States” – which they can regulate and control. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, thinks this is as clear an example as you can get of the federal government’s determination to control every part of American life. The implications are far-reaching for private property rights and economic development. EPA meddling will reach into the oil and gas industries, farming and ranching. It will increase cost to landowners, who will have to consider whether their decisions about use of their own land will meet approval by another federal agency. It’s just another way for a federal agency to assert its jurisdiction over private land owners and states and give itself permanent authority. In short, redefining a body of water will give them the right to trump private property rights and exert control over ponds and drainage ditches. (Why they would want to is a whole other issue. It simply comes down to control.) The agency says the new definitions are proposed for the sake of clarity, to help states and businesses save time and money. Pruitt hears echoes of the Administration’s rhetoric surrounding the Affordable Care Act – “don’t worry, states and private citizens, we’ll take care of it for you.” We all know how well that is turning out. Thanks, EPA, but no thanks. Crazy as it may sound, we don’t believe a federal bureaucracy can possibly have the citizens’ best interests at heart. Let us decide how to use our own water. What would our founders say if they saw the federal government today – bloated with agencies like the EPA? Agencies that have far overstepped the reasons they were created. It would probably sound something like “This is not what we intended!” The privileges of democracy are only ours if we can keep them. We must not let our rights be taken away while we watch helplessly.