Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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In the wake of unprecedented and bipartisan growth of government during the past 12 years, grass-roots resistance to oppressive and failed government regulations and laws has begun to take hold.
From states challenging federal drug laws to counties challenging state oil and gas regulations to municipalities, counties and states challenging federal mandates for stormwater system upgrades, elected officials at the local and state levels are starting to fight the layers of government mandates imposed upstream.
In that vein, Tuesday’s resolution by the El Paso County Board of Commissioners to “uphold the Second Amendment of the United States, and … not enforce any statutes, edicts, Presidential Directives, or other regulations which conflict — and are expressly preempted by — the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings” is just the latest demonstration of local elected officials refusing to kowtow when they think state or federal officials, including the president, have overstepped their authority.
Incrementally, the evidence is growing that Americans are trying to dam a river of laws and regulations that originates in Washington, D.C., picks up volume under state capitol domes and threatens to drown every town and county across America. The hundreds of new federal and state laws that give birth to thousands of regulations every year threaten to snuff out the last vestiges of American freedom, not to mention public budgets.
As a relevant aside, how many facets of life in America can you identify that don’t fall within the purview of a law or regulation?
The most promising aspect of the newfound willingness of local and state elected officials to fight the dictates that come from further up the government pecking order is that it is bipartisan. Even casual news consumers know there has been bipartisan support in the states, including Colorado, that legalized the use of marijuana in one capacity or another. Similarly, here in Colorado and across the country, local resistance to oil and gas dictates by state officials has been more parochial than political.
While bipartisan resistance to stormwater regulations promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency based on the Clean Water Act may not be commonplace, a recent federal court ruling shed light on an example of unified pushback that may spark other localities and states to join the fray against burdensome EPA mandates while casting aside political differences.
On Jan. 3, in a case pitting local and state officials in Virginia against the EPA, federal Judge Liam O’Grady ruled, “Stormwater runoff is not a pollutant, so EPA is not authorized to regulate it via TMDL (total maximum daily loads).” While the ruling may have relevance for other localities across the country — there are similar cases being litigated in other jurisdictions — the real promise of the ruling may not rest on its applicability beyond the Virginia case as much as the bipartisan nature of the resistance to the EPA’s directives.
Last July, while reporting that “Fairfax County and the State of Virginia have accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of ‘massive’ and expensive regulatory overreach in its attempts to control sediment buildup in the Accotink Watershed,” the Washington Post took note of the bipartisan team of plaintiffs.
“The Democratic-led Board of Supervisors wrestled with taking legal action against the federal agency or teaming with arch-conservative (Virginia Attorney General Ken) Cuccinelli, particularly in an election year when Virginia is a swing state and the EPA has been a periodic campaign issue. But board members … said they thought that the county had to take legal action, and felt that joining with the state would strengthen the board’s case, officials said.”
“A political body could make a decision based on politics and how things look, or they could do what’s right for Fairfax County. That’s what we’re doing here,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon S. Bulova, a Democrat, told the Post.
So, there are rays of hope for liberty lovers. Elected representatives at the grass-roots level are starting to cast aside partisanship and fight outdated and overly burdensome dictates from above that are inefficient or needlessly devouring limited resources.
That’s a worthy fight.
To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.