The Red (Tape) Planet: Does EPA’s Reach Now Extend to Mars?

Sep 30, 2015 - 4:30pm

Executive Director, Strategic Communications


One small discovery for man. One giant lead for the EPA?

For centuries, we have called it the Red Planet.

Might we someday come to know it as the Red Tape Planet?

In light of NASA’s discovery of flowing water on Mars, several members of Congress took to social media to question whether the Environmental Protection Agency would now claim regulatory jurisdiction over the planet under its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Completed in May, the rule dramatically expands the areas regulated by the EPA, extending the agency’s reach to any water features that have characteristics of flow, even if they don’t flow all year round.

Sound familiar?

“Researchers say analysis of imaging from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter proves that seasonal dark streaks on the Martian surface are the result of briny water periodically flowing across the planet's surface,” CNN reported this week.

The announcement prompted some quick-witted responses from lawmakers, including the following tweet from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).

One day later, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) followed suit with some speculation.

Many others joined the chorus on the social media site, with at least one cattle rancher and one farming industry consultancy among the dozens of Twitter users who joked about the potential EPA regulatory implications of NASA’s announcement.

Meanwhile, during an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week, Mark A. Carter, a partner at law firm Dinsmore & Shohl in Charleston, made a similar remark when discussing the government’s increasingly heavy handed regulatory approach. “I’m sure that, having discovered flowing water on Mars, EPA has now banned all mining permits that could have been issued on the planet,” he said.

Though in jest, the comments illustrate a growing frustration among lawmakers and the business community about the increasingly long arm of the EPA. So while it remains to be seen whether the agency will ever extend its reach out of this world, it’s clear that the EPA’s rulemaking process is, at the very least, getting out of hand.

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About the Author

About the Author

J.D. Harrison
Executive Director, Strategic Communications

J.D. Harrison is the Executive Director for Strategic Communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.