The EPA turns its unsubtle charms on cities. Get ready to pay.
Behold the Obama Administration’s new public works plan. Sue cities for polluting waterways and then as part of a settlement require them to spend, er, “invest” billions in extraneous sewer improvements. The White House doesn’t even need legislation to pour this money down the drain.
The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency have taken enforcement actions against 25 cities over the last four years for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act, and there are another 772 on their list. In addition to imposing millions of dollars in penalties, the feds have forced these cities into consent decrees that will cost their local taxpayers $21 billion. The decrees spell out in detail what capital upgrades they must undertake—everything down to the size of their pipes.
The EPA says this extraordinary intrusion on local sovereignty is justified because cities are discharging waste into waterways during heavy rains. Many older wastewater systems include a safety valve that releases untreated stormwater and sewage into lakes and rivers when underground tunnels are flooded. This is to prevent waste from backing up in basements. The EPA has ordered cities to limit such wet weather overflows to four per year, regardless of how much rain they receive or how little muck they discharge.