U.S. Chamber, allies urge EPA to ditch 'Waters of U.S.' rule

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2014 - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with 375 trade associations and chambers from all 50 states are calling on the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule, saying the plan would “dramatically expand the scope of federal authority over water and land uses across the U.S.”

The request was included in 48 pages of comments the groups filed on the proposal today, ahead of the closing of the comment period on the plan, at midnight on Friday, Nov. 14. As of yesterday, interested parties had filed more than a quarter million comments on the proposed rule, which aims to clarify just which bodies of waters fall under EPA jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. (The full comments and the list of signees are available here.)

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In their comments, the Chamber and its allies maintain that the proposed rule, if finalized, would expand jurisdiction to just about every body of water in the country, including ditches on farms and ranches, ponds and streams.

“This rule will have a far-reaching impact and make it even more difficult to create opportunities and jobs in this country,”  William Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber's senior vice president for the Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs, said in a news release. “EPA's actions are just wrong and the U.S. Chamber has brought together organizations from across the country to call for this proposal to be immediately withdrawn.”

According to the Chamber, the comments include maps prepared by EPA which show that the rule could expand federal jurisdiction over waters from 3.5 million river and stream miles to well over 8 million.

The groups also contend that the plan would turn most ditches into “tributaries and that routine maintenance activities in ditches and on-site ponds could trigger permits that can cost $100,000 or more. They maintain that 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, the groups say, a farmer or developer will often have to agree to mitigate environmental “damage” with costly restoration or mitigation projects. In addition, they argue that the proposal would likely result in more stringent storm water management requirements, which would affect retailers, “big box” stores and other companies with large parking lots.

In their conclusion, the groups say that the proposed rule “would have a devastating impact on businesses of all sizes” as well as states and local governments, without any real benefit to the environment, and they call on the EPA and the Army Corps “to go back to the drawing board.”

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