June 26, 2000
EPA Regulations Threaten Texas
On Wednesday of this week, I voted in enthusiastic support of an amendment to an appropriations bill prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using any taxpayer funds to designate certain areas as "ozone nonattainment areas." The amendment, which was introduced by Representatives Linder and Collins of Georgia, is needed to prevent the EPA from acting without regard to federal court decisions. Without Congressional action, counties in the 14th district of Texas (and many areas across America) could be designated as "non-attainment" areas, with dire consequences. Affected areas face the very serious loss of federal highway funds, as well as restrictions on local industries, changes to land use regulations, and reformulated gasoline requirements. The people of Texas do not need federal regulators determining our air standards, and this vote represents another step in my ongoing fight against unconstitutional and unbridled federal agencies.
The EPA, with typical bureaucratic arrogance, has acted without congressional authorization in creating its own standards for air quality. It created National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), rating counties for compliance. These standards have been challenged successfully by industry groups and three States in federal Court. The D.C. District Court of Appeals found that the EPA acted without congressional authorization when it created and applied its air standards. Because the standards were "arbitrary" and not based on "intelligible principles", the actions of the agency amount to sheer, unbridled policy judgments-expressions of bureaucratic willfulness rather than application of policies articulated in the Clean Air Act. This sound decision by the Court supported constitutional principles, as all legislative powers are assigned to Congress only.
Not surprisingly, the EPA has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Truly troubling, however, is the agency's refusal to comply with the standing Court of Appeals decision while its appeal is carried out. The EPA brazenly has decided to continue designating "non-attainment" areas despite the Court's clear finding of the unconstitutionality of its actions. The Linder/Collins amendment was necessary to legislatively prevent the EPA from further unconstitutional actions.
The people of the 14th District are directly affected by EPA actions. Areas in Brazoria and Victoria counties face possible "non-attainment" designation and the resulting loss of transportation funds. Local governments and agriculture face another key battle with the EPA over "non-point source" pollution standards, which could force farmers to obtain federal permits and have "waste management plans" approved by regulators. The threat to the local economy is obvious, as the costs of complying with onerous regulations will send business and jobs elsewhere. While air and water quality standards are a legitimate concern, the state of Texas should make its own decisions without oversight from Washington.
I previously have stated in this column that there is no constitutional authority for the creation of the EPA. I view Wednesday's vote as a victory in our fight against unconstitutional, unaccountable federal agencies. We must continue to work against EPA overreaching in the 14th District of Texas and across the nation.