Minnesotans Opposed to New Federal Authority

Published November 1, 2007

Citizens and community leaders across Minnesota are expressing opposition to a Congressional proposal that would expand federal power to regulate local bodies of water.

The proposed expansion of the federal Clean Water Act, championed by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), threatens to give federal regulators unprecedented and unjustified authority over individuals and local communities, citizens said at September 27 and 28 public hearings in Thief River Falls and International Falls, Minnesota.

Unprecedented Power Grab

Linda Runbeck, a former state senator from Circle Pines, Minnesota, organized the hearings. In an interview for this article she said the proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act “is perhaps the biggest federal power grab in our nation’s history.”

“Under the guise of clean water and environmental protection, the bill, if passed, would give the federal government control over virtually any significant type of human activity,” agreed Don Parmeter, executive director of the American Property Coalition. “It’s a frightening incursion on our constitutional freedoms. I don’t believe that most members [of Congress] would support the bill if they understood the implications and consequences for their constituents.”

Counties Opposed

At the Thief River Falls hearing, St. Louis County Commissioner Dennis Fink said, “The environmental community will tell you this is all about clean water. But the fact of the matter is giving the federal government more jurisdiction than they have does not mean you will clean the water up.

“What it means is you will have one size fits all. And what we’ve already found when the wetlands act of 1991 was put together in Minnesota, that one size even in Minnesota doesn’t fit all,” Fink continued.

“This has got to end; it has to end,” Polk County Commissioner Warren Affeldt added. “We can’t give up on this. We have to stop this. I live out in the country, and I like to go out and take a tinkle by my trees once in a while. I’m afraid I won’t even be able to do that.”

Ropert Cope, an Idaho county commissioner who chairs the National Association of Counties’ Environment, Energy, and Land Use Committee, presided over the hearings. The National Association of Counties opposes expansion of federal power under the Clean Water Act.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.