by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
When different branches of the same organization work at cross purposes, it is often said that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. One seemingly unrelated pair of current political initiatives illustrates the point.
Several times over the past six years we have discussed the roller coaster of constantly changing legal interpretations known as “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS. It is a hot topic again this week because the Environmental Protection Agency just announced its plan to once again revise the rule “to better protect our nation’s vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth.” Ignoring the grammatical cul-de-sac of “protecting” the resource that “protects” the environment, I couldn’t help focusing on the last phrase in that description — protecting the resources that support “economic growth.”
Under Colorado law, it has long been recognized that water is the essential basis of all economic activity, including municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational uses. But water is only valuable enough to create a property right when it is “put to beneficial use.” It supports no economy when it is walled off, and put under control of Washington bureaucrats, with all human uses blocked pending permits that take years to get, if they are allowed at all. The only economy that supports is in Washington, D.C.