A new bill, introduced by Idaho Rep. Paul Shepherd (R-Riggins), declares that the EPA’s regulatory authority is unconstitutional and violate’s the U.S. Constitution’s “true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifiers.” For that reason, if the bill was passed, the the EPA’s authority would “not be recognized by this state, is specifically rejected by this state and shall be considered null and void and of no force and effect in this state.”
The bill was introduced in response to complaints from some Idaho gold dredgers, who have said a new Clean Water Act permitting system in the state qualifies as federal overreach. Under the system, which operates similarly to a fishing licence, the rock and sand sucked up by dredgers and expelled back into the river are classified as pollutants. Dredging, even at a small scale, can lead to increased erosion in a stream and can alter habitat for fish and other aquatic life.
But though the bill was in response to the dredgers’ complaints, Shepherd made it clear that it wasn’t just the Clean Water Act provision he was looking to sack.
“It appears the EPA bureaucracy has an agenda in its interpretation of what pollution is,” he said. “They’re saying if you pick up sand with a suction dredge, run it through and dump it back in the water, that’s pollution. It’s pretty much shutting (the dredgers) down. That’s the main thing driving this, but the bill pertains to any regulations not approved by the people.”
Shepherd said that the bill would’t nullify any regulations that have been approved by Congress, but Congressional approval isn’t part of the EPA’s regulatory process. Lawmakers on the national stage have called before for Congressional oversight on EPA regulations — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced last month that he wants to force a vote on the EPA’s regulations on coal-fired power plant emissions, and earlier this month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced new legislation that would force Congress to vote on all EPA regulations.
But some in Idaho — Republicans included — are questioning whether Shepherd’s bill will really make a difference in the state.
“How does it protect miners from the federal government imposing a fine (for a pollution discharge), since that process can go through federal court?” Rep. Lynn Luker asked. “I’m struggling to see how, in practical terms, this will protect our businesses.”
Idaho isn’t the first to introduce a bill seeking to nullify EPA regulations. Last month, 37 Arizona lawmakers went further than Shepherd, introducing a bill that would nullify all EPA regulations in the state. That bill relies on the reasoning that the Tenth Amendment overrides federal environmental regulations.