Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waters of the US: All of Your Questions Answered (And Why the EPA Has it Wrong)

“As you extend the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ to streams that only flow after it rains and isolated ponds and drainage ditches, you extend the areas in which home builders are required to get permits,” leading to bureaucratic delays, additional expenses and ultimate, more expensive homes. Learn more in this interview with NAHB Environmental Policy Program Manager Owen McDonough and National Association of Counties Legislative Director Julie Ufner.

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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has joined the throng of home builders, farmers and elected officials asking the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its proposed definitions for waters of the U.S., citing the disproportionate effect of the rule on small businesses.

It’s a situation that could have been avoided all together had the agency done what it was supposed to do in the first place: Have the SBA review the rule before releasing it to the public.

The new definitions could encompass land near bodies of water previously under the jurisdiction of states and counties – or in the case of some drainage ditches or upland bodies of water, not jurisdictional at all under the Clean Water Act.

SBA is “extremely concerned about the rule as proposed. The rule will have a direct and potentially costly impact on small businesses. The limited economic analysis which the agencies submitted with the rule provides ample evidence of a potentially significant economic impact,” said SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, PhD., in an Oct. 1 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

On Oct. 14, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va) wrote an op-ed in The News Virginian, saying, “The impact of the Waters of the U.S. rule on farmers, landowners, local economies, and jobs is very real. Protecting America’s waterways is critical, but continued power grabs by the EPA is not the solution. This should be a collaborative approach – not a mandate or murky definition from the EPA.”

On Wednesday, two NAHB members – builders from Louisiana and Maryland – were scheduled to visit the EPA offices in Washington to talk about the effects of the proposed rule on their businesses – as well as the expected eventual costs, by extension, to home buyers. The EPA invitation is appreciated, said NAHB Environmental Policy Analyst Owen McDonough, but it’s like shutting the proverbial gate after the horse has galloped away.

“EPA may have questions about how the rule will affect home builders and developers, but they were obligated to ask those questions before they proposed these new definitions,” McDonough said.

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