Small Businesses Fight EPA Effort To Regulate More Waterways
By Sara Jerome
A proposed regulation designed to bring smaller bodies of water under federal oversight has gained vocal opposition from small business owners.
The new rule, proposed by the EPA and submitted to the White House for review last month, would clarify which waterways the agency can regulate under the Clean Water Act, as Water Online previously reported.
Now the rule is under a full-scale lobbying attack, including opposition from small business owners. The National Federation of Independent Business, an influential advocacy group in Washington, told the White House in a letter that the rule would hurt its members, The Hill reported.
"It will have severe practical and financial implications for many. If a portion of a property is deemed a jurisdictional wetland, the owner cannot make use of that segment of his or her property. Indeed, the owner will face devastating fines of up to $37,500 per day if he or she begins to develop that section of the property," the letter said.
Other stakeholders have raised similar concerns. One group argued the states ought to be policing those waters, not the EPA. The proposal "ignores the fundamental premise in the [law] that there are waters subject to the exclusive regulatory jurisdiction of the states," The Associated General Contractors of America has said in the course of the proceeding.
The rule is aimed at clarifying what the EPA can and cannot regulate. For years, the agency has gone to the mat with industry over which waters fall under its regulatory jurisdiction. It has received criticism for classifying tiny waterways as "navigable" in an awkward attempt to bring them under Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
For instance, in a blog post, legal expert Stephen Bainbridge criticized the EPA for saying that Compton Creek, part of the Los Angeles River, is a "navigable water."
"Navigable by what? A rubber duck? It looks to be maybe all of six inches deep in spots," he wrote on his blog. "Because it's now deemed a navigable water, [federal authorities] get to regulate it."
He did not seem opposed to the EPA regulating the creek. "In the case of Compton Creek, maybe that's not such a bad thing," he said. But he slammed how the EPA managed to bring the creek under its umbrella.
"It's precisely this absurdly expansive definition of what constitutes a navigable water that allows the government to regulate privately owned wetlands almost without regard to how far they are from a river on which you or I would sail anything bigger than an bath toy," he said.
Image credit: "EPA Truck," © 2007 Emydidae, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en
Image credit: "Compton Creek After Maintenance II," © 2008 Heal The Bay, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/