Buying a plot of land has more than its fair share of hoops to jump through. Before you even think about negotiating a fair price, you’re checking on local zoning, mineral rights and water rights.
Here in the West you can still buy pasture for $350 an acre and there are a few mountain views for as cheap as $20,000 an acre.
But the federal government is poised to give you more homework to complete before you buy land by placing more restrictions on property through environmental regulations.
But what if the people signing off on the regulations don’t really know what they’re talking about? That’s exactly what is happening at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the decisions they are making impact your personal property.
The days of quick and relatively painless due diligence for land purchases is over. The government wants more say in what happens on your private property – costing you both precious time and money. And it’s all in the hands of someone who doesn’t have the facts.
At one time you might have bought property after falling in love with the lay of the land. You would check local zoning, find out who owned the mineral and water rights, and a few other things. Now, you need to expand your due diligence to look at engineering surveys of above ground and underground water systems because the EPA will have a say on how you can use your property.
The premise for the EPA’s rule making is that anything that could possibly be connected to climate change must be controlled. You may not generate anything harmful, but if it flows across your land, you may be responsible for it.
Power in the Hands of Clueless Administrators
President Obama wants to make combating climate change part of his legacy. So you can expect more environmental regulations to flow from the EPA.
However, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the person who signs off on the EPA’s rules and regulations, doesn’t know very much about the very thing that EPA is trying to stop — climate change. That was made clear at the Senate hearing when asked by Senator Jeff Sessions about basic climate change rhetoric.
Earlier this month McCarthy testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee. She is seeking a 6% increase in funding for the agency.
When asked by Senator Sessions, McCarthy didn’t know we’re experiencing fewer landfalls of strong hurricanes. She didn’t know that current global temperatures are flat line while climate models predict they will rise. Are the computer models accurate? McCarthy’s response, “I do not know what the models actually are predicting that you are referring to.”
That led Senator Sessions to comment: “This is a stunning development, that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency — who should know more than anybody else in the world, who is imposing hundreds of billions of dollars in cost to prevent this climate temperature increase — doesn’t know whether their projections have been right or wrong.”
Expansion of Power
Most of us think of the EPA as the folks who have cleaned up rivers, reduced smog and added a bunch of gizmos under the hood of our SUV.
But now the EPA will clarify — and expand — language in the 1972 Clean Water Act that will impact your rights as a property owner.
Generally, the Clean Water Act is understood to cover “navigable waters,” which reasonable people assume to be rivers, lakes and creeks. As early as next month the rule will include roadside ditches, farm ponds and some water feature landscapes like rain gardens. Anything that could be a pollutant that washes off your property in rainwater will be regulated.
And, yes, even underground springs are navigable waters.
The expansion of the Clean Water Act will give the Federal government more control over your private piece of paradise.
If I were buying real estate today, I’d not only look at who owns the mineral and water rights, but also get a hydrologic study from a professional engineer that looks at:
- How water flows to adjoining property
- How water flows from adjoining property to the property I want to buy
- The location and flow of springs on the property and adjoining property
- The location and flow of nearby underground streams
- Current and proposed laws regarding the responsibility for pollution in and around the property
The next piece of paradise you want to buy may wind up not being worth the killer view because of the Federal restrictions placed on its use to protect us from this thing called “climate change” — that even the head of the EPA doesn’t understand.
There’s a silver lining in every cloud,
Certified Consulting Meteorologist