Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fourth Amendment? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Fourth Amendment

Apparently today is "hide the breakables day." This one comes to us from #1 blogdaughter.

EPA claims it has the power to garnish wages without court approval
The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly claimed that it has the authority to unilaterally garnish the wages of individuals who have been accused of violating its rules.

According to The Washington Times, the agency announced the plan to enhance its purview last week in a notice in the Federal Register. The notice claimed that federal law allows the EPA to "garnish non-Federal wages to collect delinquent non-tax debts owed the United States without first obtaining a court order."
Got that? The EPA - the agency that, may I remind you, was paying one of its employees a full time salary, even thought that employee only worked four days a week, because the employee claimed to be a CIA operative - can, without anything resembling due process, just start garnishing your wages over fines they levied. This, mind you, is after they select the venue and decide who's going to hear the case.

Now, one thing I don't get - and I haven't seen any news reports that delineate this - is how the EPA actually gets around to fining *people*. It would seem to me that for an individual to be fined, they'd have to be charged with a crime, right? Wouldn't, then, the process for collecting such fines reside in the court system? I don't see how an individual would be in a position to be fined by the EPA, but not facing legal action?

I mean, I understand why a company might get a fine, since it's not like you can just arrest an entire corporation for violating the Clean Air Act or something like that. But in order to garnish wages - as opposed to earnings - that implies that it's an action aimed at a particular individual, in which case my question above stands. Maybe there's something I'm missing, but it sure seems like the EPA's on a big 'ol power grab here.

Of course, the EPA's shakedown take going from $96 million to $250+ million over the course of Obama's administration is purely a coincidence, right?

That is all.


Anonymous said...

In the same way that health care companies are subject to fines (and to make it really hurt, they make the CEO personally responsibile for a large share of it).

This is aimed at CEOs for major poluters (and anyone else they can jerk funds out of).

The lack of due process is highly questionable. I do not see this passing Constitutional muster. However, CEOs, like the companies represent, loathe taking the .GOV to court over overreach because then the little guy with a step ladder and miner's helmet comes out to do an "audit".

No, Jay. It isn't right. But par for the course from the government lately.

Joseph in IL

Stretch said...

I'm gonna invest in rope.
I see a booming demand for it in the near future.

Will Brown said...

I think the "... garnish non-Federal wages to collect delinquent non-tax debts ..." is the key item here. What is the legal authority for EPA to garnish Federal wages?

Figuring that out might give better insight into just what authority is being claimed here. This would also identify the enforcement mechanism/authority the EPA seeks to expand to include apparently anyone with "wages" to be garnished.

It seems pretty apparent that somebodies regulatory rice bowl is being dipped into here, so there's a potential insider opponent to this power grab, if no one else.

Dave H said...

It's not unusual for regulatory agencies to levy fines, but only on people who've agreed to abide by their rules. For example, the FCC can charge a "fine" (they call it a "monetary forfeiture") to someone who holds an FCC license, because one of the conditions of being granted a license is you recognize the FCC's authority to do so. I can see the EPA's permit process having similar conditions, including the applicant agreeing to allow wage garnishment in the case of violations. Don't like it? No permit for you.

Old NFO said...

Tar + Feathers...

wolfwalker said...

"I don't see how an individual would be in a position to be fined by the EPA, but not facing legal action?"

As I understand it, EPA claims the power to impose fines through its own enforcement process, not through the courts. The fines can be challenged in court, but only if the victim chooses to file suit.

Power grabs by the EPA are nothing new -- that agency has been doing such things since the day it was formed. See the 2012 Supreme Court case Sackett v. EPA for one example in which SCOTUS smacked down the agency. Guess they didn't learn the lesson.

The Old Man said...

Look up "Director's Final Findings and Orders" or DFFOs. The camel's nose has permitted the camel to destroy the tent.