Rob Douglas: Grass-roots pushback


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at

Find more columns by Douglas here.

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


Fred Duckels 4 years, 3 months ago

Buying a good watch dog sounds good because the one that we have is complicit and self serving. This assault on freedom comes from the left looking to eradicate capitalism. The media has fallen on hard times from changing technology and competition from conservative corners. Their game plan for survival seems to hinge on throwing in with liberal causes., To recognize the conservative view would be counterproductive and hasten their irrelevance. With this symbiotic relationship in effect the media will not going against their perceived path of survival.and the fiasco and the media malpractice will continue.


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago

" many facets of life in America can you identify that don't fall within the purview of a law or regulation?"

Darn good question. And the answer (almost none) is a badge of shame to be worn by the American people for letting things get to this point.

What's worse, we are reaching that Orwellian point... that absolutely, positively "North Korean" point at which ALL THAT IS NOT FORBIDDEN IS CUMPULSORY


Steve Lewis 4 years, 3 months ago

Let's not oversimplify the meaning of Liberty to become a knee-jerk cheering for each regulation removed. Regulations also protect us.

Our nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, is directly downstream of those Virginia deliberations. Stormwater runoff is an important issue for that bay, and "Liberty" in Rob's context may carry a stiff price for the fishermen downstream.


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm so glad Steve mentioned the Chesapeake Bay.

I own significant property in that watershed and am appalled at the police state they have tried to enact vis-a vis stormwater.

The average Wal-Mart customer there now helps to pay the additional $10,000/year for their purchases due to the Stormwater regs.

Expand that to cover all the shopping malls and ask yourself if only the "rich foks" are having their taxes raised (morons)

I wonder how Steve Lewis reconciles that?

I wonder how Steve explains to my tennants, the $43/month increase I have had to put in every single one of their rents to cover the EPA's new TAX on RAIN .??????????


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago

It's bad enough to tax rain. It's even worse when the tax doesn't address the problem.

As a developer I went through hell back there to keep a 2 acre site from washing into the precious Chesapeake Bay while the farmer across the road plowed up and spread phosphates, nitrogen, and anything else he wanted, over a hundred acre field with no cost to him whatsoever. All the while his cows are wallowing , etc, in the creek.

Kind of flies in the face of what Steve Lewis advocvated... that is, having the polluters pay the real, actual cost of their operations instead of dumping the cost off on others.

The developers are not the major "bad guy" in this story but they are being treated like it because polliticians (left and right) won't stand up to the farm lobby.

The reality is, either way, EVERYBODY'S taxes are getting raised by this omnipotent government we have. They either get it in your rent or in your groceries. Anyone who thinks taxes are being raised only on the rich is an absolute fool.

In fact, when it's all said and done I'd be willing to bet the poor and middle class are going to get a larger tax increase than the rich, especially if you consider it on a percentage-of-income basis. But they won't see it because the landlord or wal-mart or car dealer or grocer will be forced to collect those stormwater taxes in the form of higher prices for everything the poor and middle class struggle to provide for their families.

Brilliant arrangement if you think about it: Make the business-man the "culprit" just for collecting ransoms for YOURSELF. Ahh gubbamint... what's not to love????


Sam Jones 4 years, 3 months ago

Dear Steamboat Pilot, Community and Rob Douglas I'm not sure if Rob's commentary this week was intended to build support for the failing Tea (Me) Party Agenda but this seems like a classic case of seeing only what you want to see. Routt County for instance did a fantastic job of questioning CO state's lenient regs imposed by the COGCC on drilling and fracking in our county. There was no requirement for drillers to do any sort of base line water quality testing and the LOCAL effort to add that requirement (read additional reg and requirement) to the STATE regs was successful. Now Quicksilver, who was strongly opposed to the baseline water testing and threatened to sue to Routt County is caving in order to get their permit. Seems like local efforts are working hard to add real and meaningful regs to ineffective state and federal regs.

Storm water runoff? don't get me started. There are entire industries at the local level that exist to simply clean up after the failed regulatory environment imposed at the state and federal level.

The problem is not too much or overbearing state or Fed regs but rather ineffective and compromised regs that fail to solve much. Local efforts are simply trying to get it right as they are often the ones bearing the burden for failure. Let's not confuse that with some interpretation as rebellion against rules that protect our food, water and air.

BTW, how is it that the Pilot allows such unchecked biased commentary in "our" paper as a regular column? Is this the true voice of our community? Wouldn't Rob's opinions be better posted as a Letter to the Editor? As I read his commentary on the FRONT PAGE, I find myself asking questions like, " so would Rob rather we have no regs and watch as we slow poison ourselves and our environment?" Being a resort town that highlights our environment and access to undeveloped outdoor recreation, are we sure someone like Rob is sending our visitors the right message. I think I'd rather see another moose picture.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 3 months ago

Or, if not a moose picture then the paper should make an effort to have a local political columnist that can offer viewpoints.

It certainly cannot be claimed that Rob speaks for the typical local since his politics are of the TEA Pary faction of the Republican Party that has been gathering about 40% of the local vote.

Rob's comments on guns borders on the irresponsible by noting occasions when guns were used for protection while ignoring the hundred or so daily gun deaths. Someone reading Rob's columns and forum posts would get the false impression that gun ownership typically increases personal safety when factually it is well documented that gun ownership in the house greatly increases the chances that someone in the house will die from guns.


Oren 4 years, 3 months ago

33... The number you are looking for is 33. 33 gun deaths a day across the entire nation. By comparison, 32,885 traffic deaths in 2011. That's 90 and change a day. This is factual. There is hard data. I even have a reference! Granted, it's Wikipedia... Stating that gun ownership increases your chances of dying that way and not providing references just makes your statements laughable.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 3 months ago


Your 33 number appears to be gun homicides per day. Add in accidental shootings and gun suicides and it is about 100 per day.


Sam Jones 4 years, 3 months ago


That is actually not a fact, you might consider other sources beyond Wiki

CDC and others concur

Happy researching


rhys jones 4 years, 3 months ago

How does "Oren" get by without a last name, Pilot? Is he special or something? Why does he get anonymous privileges others are denied? What a joke your "policies" are. One day you tell us how great they are, the next they are blatantly ignored. Be consistent at least.


mark hartless 4 years, 3 months ago

Heck, Rhys. I think that's twice we agree inside of 24 hrs. Maybe a big shift in weather pattern is comming...


John Weibel 4 years, 3 months ago


Other sources,

reports about 26k for vehicle accidents Firearm homicides Number of deaths: 11,078

The Me party was largely a loosely knit group of all political walks of life, whose primary figure head Ron Paul was interviewed in Grist ( on how he felt pollution should be dealt with. Maybe some further research when casting labels on others should also be researched.

Those darn regulations, or incentives which help foster that tilling of the land and fertilizers that end up in the Chesapeake and other bodies of water are not only not called out by our government but are incentivized by ag subsidies.

on a Strong central government in the US versus Mexico, seems that the feds primary responsibility would be to ensure that those who enter our country have a drivers license and insurance as happens when we enter Mexico. have to buy Mexican insurance because ours is invalid there.

In addition the private property rights here that the tea party espouses would protect one in court for another destroying their property via a wreck. Do not need a strong government for that. Most of the rules come from the state to offer those protections anyway.

Move the decision making as close to the people as possible. I guess the supreme court gave people hood to corporations so in that respect they are the ones with the most money and can thus make the rules we all have to abide by.



Fred Duckels 4 years, 3 months ago

There may be a problem in the Chespeake Bay that need attention, but classifying runoff as a pollutant will affect every inch of the nation, giving the EPA and the socialist wannabees a huge power grab. Giving agriculture a break in order to preserve their voting allegiance gives us a view of hypocracy on steroids .Yes rules are necessary but many are nothing more than an agenda driven tool.


John Weibel 4 years, 3 months ago

In reality the gun issue is simply a wedge issue/distraction from the real issues at hand. If one actually gave real thought to the platform that Ron Paul was presenting he would have taken the election in a landslide.

However, people listened to their news sources and bought the corporate line on him and his ideologies. Those in power, have no desire for real discussion of the issues. They are happy that they now have cart blanche to print another 14 trillion from their meeting in Davos, with which we will never know how it is spent as that is not open for audit - or at least hasn't.

When it was opened up we learned that the wives of the bankers were given large loans at next to nothing.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely - go read up on the battle of Athens, TN which occurred after WWII when the returning GI's got tired of the local corruption and prevented the theft of the election. Today they would have been detained without cause, warrant or whatever, because O just signed it into law that the feds can.

Yes rules are needed, but I do not need to report to the feds within 24 hours of a calves birth or pay a $5k fine - as was proposed. I can do it today, but several years ago - even this year when one got together with a bull and then calved on the back side of the Giant and I did not know for a week might have been a problem. Previously, there was no possible way of complying. A rancher who helped set up a system in Australia came numerous times to lobby against the rule here, because the technology would not work in 110 weather, the paperwork to correct the error required another full time worker - to make us safe.

I do not think that people grasp the depths with which the government is setting up rules. The Food Safety and Modernization act was passed to fix the problems. The problem is that the bill gives power to an unidentified individual(s) to come up with the rules in the future. What happens when you disagree with one - say a firewall - where is the check or balance of power to extract rules that may have been ill conceived.


John Fielding 4 years, 3 months ago


Breathing in is not yet regulated but be careful about exhaling, carbon dioxide is a pollutant!



Rob Douglas 4 years, 2 months ago

"As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

"The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree."


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