Jun 18, 2014 - 3:15pm

Agencies Extend Public Comment Period on 'Waters of the U.S.' Rule Amidst Waves of Protest

A broad coalition of associations has strong words over what it calls “recent activities to federalize our nation’s waters and public and private lands” by two Obama Administration agencies.

In a June 10 letter to the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, the Waters Advocacy Council (WAC) says the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have “crafted a complicated set of regulatory definitions, including new and poorly defined terms, based on ambiguous and untested legal theories and regulatory exclusions.”

The proposed rule by the two agencies, known as the “Waters of the U.S.” rule would expand their federal authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to cover waters with “a significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters. This would include many ditches, conveyances, and isolated waters that were previously under the jurisdiction of the states.

The proposed rule also includes a catch-all category to sweep in any remaining waters by allowing the EPA or the Corps to establish a “significant nexus” on a case-by-case basis.

The result, the group writes, will increase federal control over water and land, subjecting activities that might impact these areas to more complicated and layered reviews and potential citizen suits. This will substantially impact job creation, economic investment, and growth.

It could also trigger additional permitting and regulatory requirements for both the regulated community and state regulators.

“Nearly every sector of the economy – including agriculture, construction, housing, manufacturing, utilities, energy production, and transportation – is immediately affected by how EPA and the Corps interpret and implement the CWA. Just as importantly, private property owners who want to develop their own land, as well as state and local governments building critical infrastructure, must also frequently obtain CWA permits.”

The coalition, which represents the nation’s construction, manufacturing, housing, real estate, mining, agricultural, and energy sectors, is urging Congress to stop the agencies from finalizing their proposed rule.

The coalition apparently weren’t alone in their objections to the new water rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are extending the public comment period for the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule from July 21 until October 20, 2014, an additional 91 days…This extension is in response to numerous requests received by the agencies. The agencies are continuing to meet with representatives of States and local governments, stakeholders, and elected officials during the comment period. 

Earlier this month, small business owners told the House Small Business Committee that they’ll get swamped by a new proposed rule. Maybe it's time to send this expansive rule down the river once and for all. 

About the Author

About the Author

Sheryll Poe is a former senior writer at the U.S. Chamber, who covered public policies affecting businesses including the three "T's" - transportation, trade and taxes.