EPA Wage Garnishment Without Court Order Sparks Outrage

The EPA claims to possess the power to garnish the wages of Americans who have been accused of violating environmental policies without obtaining a court order. Many find the ability for the federal agency to grab such authority a very frightening prospect. The statement by Environmental Protection Agency has been compared to a police officer announcing that a suspect will be sent straight to jail without the benefit of a trial.

The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 was cited by EPA officials when they issued notice about the new policy. The law gives all federal entities the power to garnish wages without legal proceedings if the agency allows hearings where the accused debtor can challenge the terms of the repayment schedule or the amount of the fine.

The Environmental Protection Agency also noted that the new mandate would be fast-tracked so it could take effect by September 2. If enough “adverse public comments” are received by August 1, EPA officials may consider rethinking the rule. Officials at the federal agency feel that garnishing wages without a court order was not subject to oversight review because it is not deemed a “significant regulatory action.”

A statement from the EPA to Fox News about the wage garnishment pointed to a Department of Treasury 2011 rule about debt collection:

“Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG) would apply only after EPA attempts to collect delinquent debts and after Treasury attempts to collect delinquent debts through other means. The agency would provide notice prior to any action, giving the debtor the opportunity to review, contest or enter into a repayment agreement.”

Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso does not agree with the EPA wage garnishment policy. “The EPA has a history of overreaching its authority. It seems like once again the EPA is trying to take power it doesn’t have away from American citizens,” Senator Barrasso said.

The Heritage Foundation feels the new EPA rule gives the massive federal agency “unbridled discretion” over the fine challenging process. The conservative group also maintains that the wage garnishment rule places the burden of proof of a violation not on the Environmental Protection Agency, but on the alleged debtor. Under the new policy, the EPA essentially gets to be the judge, jury, and executioner, the Heritage Foundation and other opponents to the rule have stated.

How do you feel about the EPA having the power to garnish up to 15 percent of your wages without a court order?

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