According to the EPA, they are given the authority to garnish non-Federal wages through the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which gave all federal agencies the power to conduct administrative wage garnishment, provided that the agency allows for hearings at which debtors can challenge the amount or the terms of a repayment schedule. “With this new rule, the EPA is putting the burden of proof onto the American citizen instead of themselves. In any other type of debt collecting case, the collector has the burden of proof. The EPA is taking away the power of the American citizens and their right to a fair and just trial,” Johnson said. “This threat of garnishing individual’s wages will end up forcing folks to agree to expensive settlements rather than take the risk of fighting them,” Johnson continued.
Since 2009, the amount of money the EPA has collected for fines has increased over 160 percent. According to the EPA’s annual report, in 2012 the agency collected more than $250 million in fines. “The new rules the agency has put into place regarding the Clean Water Act can contribute to this dramatic increase. One new rule allows the EPA to classify a small puddle of water as ‘navigable.’ This has allowed the agency unprecedented power over personal property,” Johnson stated. An example of this happened in Wyoming, where Wyoming landowner Andrew Johnson was fined $75,000 per day by the EPA for building a legal stock pond on his private land. “Mr. Johnson had gone through all the legal channels and obtained all the required permits to build his small pound that was only 2 feet wide and 6 inches deep,” Johnson explained.
The notice released from the EPA states that they intend to fast track this regulatory action on wage garnishment in order to have it put in place by September 2nd unless they receives sufficient public outcry by August. 1st. “It is important that folks let the agency know that the federal government does not have the power to bypass the rules that are put into place for everyone else. The EPA’s overreach must stop,” Johnson said.
To comment on the EPA’s regulatory action regarding administrative wage garnishment, you can do so by going here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA_FRDOC_0001-15898