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Congressman John Duncan

Representing the 2nd District of Tennessee

EPA is Out of Control

July 13, 2011


Mr. DUNCAN of Tennessee: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2018, and I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Last year, Thomas Donahue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a speech to a major jobs summit:

"Taken collectively, the regulatory activity now underway is so overwhelmingly beyond anything we have ever seen that we risk moving this country away from a government of the people to a government of regulators."

 Mr. Speaker, if we are ever going to see an economic recovery, if we are ever going to create enough jobs for our young people, we have got to stop this explosion of Federal rules, regulations and red tape. This country could be booming right now, but it is being held back by Federal bureaucrats who have very little or no business experience and who do not realize how difficult it is to survive in small business or on small farms today.

This is my 23rd year in Congress. I believe I have heard and read more complaints about the EPA in the last couple of years than about all other Federal agencies combined. This bill is a very moderate attempt to rein in environmental radicals at the EPA and to put some common sense and, more importantly, some fairness in these clean water rulings.

I have heard from farmers, homebuilders, small business people, Realtors, coal miners, small property owners, and others. These rules and regulations do not hurt the big giants in business--in fact, they help them by driving out competition--but they are sure hurting the little guy, and they are hurting poor and lower income people by driving up the cost of houses, the cost of food and everything else, and are destroying jobs. Simply put, the EPA is out of control.

A few years ago, when I chaired the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, we heard testimony from a cranberry farmer in Massachusetts. During his testimony, he broke down into tears over the way he was treated by the EPA. The EPA claimed he filled 46 acres of wetlands that the farmer said never existed. The farmer, a Mr. Johnson, spent $2 million over two decades in fighting this case. At the end of it, Mr. Johnson said he was "disgusted" by all the millions of dollars the government spent on a small section of his 400-acre farm.

He said, "For the money they spent, they could have bought all of our property with half of it."

Several years ago, in one of the most famous wetland cases, the trial judge in a Federal court said, "I don't know if it's just a coincidence that I just sentenced Mr. Gonzales, a person selling dope on the streets of the United States. He is an illegal person here. He's not an American citizen. He has a prior criminal record. So here we have a person who comes to the United States and commits crimes of selling dope, and the government asks me to put him in prison for 10 months; and then we have an American citizen who buys land, pays for it with his own money, and he moves some sand from one end to the other, and the government wants me to give him 63 months in prison.'' The judge said, "Now, if that isn't our system gone crazy, I don't know what is."

That's what this bill is all about. We've had so many of these bureaucratic rulings that have just gone crazy.

Mr. Speaker, this is supposed to be a Federal system in which our Founding Fathers felt more power should be given to the States than to the national government. They certainly didn't envision a Federal dictatorship, with the States being dictated to by unelected Federal bureaucrats.

This bill does not go very far, but it at least tries to put a little more balance and fairness back into our system so that we can have both clean water and a stronger economy.