The California Chamber of Commerce has joined with 375 trade associations and chambers from 50 states to voice strong concerns with a proposal that will have a huge impact on ordinary business activities by dramatically expanding federal authority over water and land uses across the country.
The coalition, including associations representing a wide range of industries, has called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed rule and start over on drafting it.
By redefining what constitutes “waters of the United States” governed by the federal Clean Water Act, the proposed rule could expand federal jurisdiction over waters from 3.5 million river and stream miles to well over 8 million river and stream miles, according to maps prepared by EPA.
The proposal also would likely result in more stringent storm water management requirements, which would affect retailers, companies with large parking lots, “big box” stores, etc.
In comments submitted November 12, the groups state, “The proposed rule is really about the agencies’ overreaching attempt to replace longstanding state and local control of land uses near water with centralized federal control. In light of the overwhelming evidence that the proposed rule would have a devastating impact on businesses, states and local governments without any real benefit to water quality, the agencies should immediately withdraw the waters of the U.S. proposal and begin again. The current proposed rule is simply too procedurally and legally flawed to repair.”
Examples of the proposed rule’s impacts, as cited in the groups’ comments, include:
- The rule would make most ditches into “tributaries.” Routine maintenance activities in ditches and on-site ponds and impoundments could trigger permits that can cost $100,000 or more;
- These permitting requirements would likely trigger additional environmental reviews that would add years to the completion time for ordinary projects;
- Even if a project can get a permit, firms often will have to agree to mitigate environmental “damage” with costly restoration/mitigation projects.
- Given the lack of a court order or court-issued deadline to revise the proposed rule, the agencies involved have enough time to redraft it, working with federal, state and local authorities to develop consensus-based changes that protect waters, encourage economic prosperity, and are legally defensible.