Individual builders and state and local home builders associations interested in participating in 10 regional roundtables hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that focus on future changes to the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule should contact NAHB by Tuesday, Oct. 26.
EPA claims the purpose of these WOTUS regional roundtables is to inform the Biden administration as it shapes yet another definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water act that is expected to be proposed sometime next year.
Last week, EPA issued a press release requesting that stakeholders submit by Nov. 3 their own proposed roundtable, including perspectives from “agriculture, conservation groups, developers, drinking water/wastewater management, environmental organizations, environmental justice communities, industry, and other key interests in that region.”
This is a very unorthodox request from the EPA asking members of the public to construct entire hearings on behalf of the agency. Recognizing the impracticality of EPA’s request, NAHB has partnered with the American Farm Bureau (FB), whose various state chapters will be submitting panel requests to EPA. EPA is dividing the country into five separate regions for these 10 regional WOTUS roundtables (two in each region) that will be livestreamed for public viewing in December 2021 and January 2022. EPA’s suggested regions are as follows:
- Northeast (Maine, Mass. R.I., Conn., N.H., Vt., Penn., N.J., Del. and Md.)
- Southeast (W. Va., Va., Ky., N.C., S.C., Ga., Ala., Miss., Ark., La. and Fla.)
- Midwest (Ohio, Ind., Mich., Ill., Mo., Wis., Minn., Iowa, Kan., Neb., S.D. and N.D.)
- West (Wyo., Mont., Idaho, Wash., Ore., Nev., Calif., Alaska and Hawaii)
- Southwest (Texas, Okla., N.M., Ariz. and Colo.)
FB’s state bureaus in each respective region are putting together meeting proposals and NAHB can put you in touch with the specific FB representatives in your state/region.
In order for builders to have a say in this process, NAHB is urging state HBAs from each of the five regions identified in the EPA notice to work together to submit a list of participants that they want to include in these roundtables.
Why It Matters
We do not want EPA to be able to point to these roundtables as proof that there is a consensus supporting the agency’s actions to revise the Navigable Waters Protection Rule that defines WOTUS.
If our nominations are not selected as representatives these roundtables, then that will be powerful evidence that the administration is entirely ignoring the industry perspective.
According to the EPA notice: “The roundtables will provide opportunities to discuss geographic similarities and differences, particular water resources that are characteristic of or unique to each region, and site-specific feedback about implementation of WOTUS.”
Seeking Different Perspectives
EPA believes the goals of these roundtables are to:
- Highlight how different regions are affected by the various WOTUS definitions (i.e., the pre-2015 regulatory regime, the 2015 Clean Water Rule, and the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule).
- Learn about stakeholder experiences, challenges and opportunities under different regulatory regimes.
- Facilitate engagement across diverse perspectives to inform the development of a durable and workable definition of WOTUS.
“The roundtables will also provide an opportunity for the participants to discuss geographic similarities and differences, particular water resources that are characteristic of or unique to each region, and site-specific feedback about implementation,” the EPA said.
Nomination letters for the roundtables are due by Nov. 3, so HBAs interested in having builder participation should move quickly.