Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate yesterday would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from implementing a proposed rule that could result in millions of acres of private property to be regulated as wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
“NAHB strongly supports this legislative fix championed by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) that would prevent the agencies from greatly expanding the federal government’s role in regulating our nation’s waters,” said Tom Woods, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “If this rulemaking were to go into effect, it would do little to help the environment and lead to a more costly permitting process, drive up the price of housing, infringe on states’ rights and hurt job growth.”
EPA and the Corps’ proposal to significantly expand the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is so broad that it could be interpreted to include almost any water body, such as ditches, mudflats or isolated ponds.
“Not only would this exacerbate regulatory uncertainty, it would vastly extend the areas in which home builders and other landowners are required to obtain wetlands permits,” said Woods. “These permits can cost upwards of $270,000 and take many years to obtain. Ultimately, these higher compliance and transaction costs will make homes more expensive and could force potential buyers out of the marketplace.”
Similar to legislation (H.R. 1732) pending in the House, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) would require the agencies to withdraw their proposal and resubmit a new plan only after they complete the following regulatory requirements that are designed to ensure a fair and balanced rule:
- Consult with state and local governments
- Confer with business stakeholders
- Comply with the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act
- Produce an accurate cost-benefit analysis
Unlike its House counterpart, the Senate bill would also establish new parameters for identifying a water of the U.S.
NAHB is urging the Senate to act swiftly to advance this bill.