E&E News: House GOP calls on admin to withdraw Clean Water Act rule until impact on small business is assessed
By Annie Snider
Friday, May 23, 2014
Republican members of the House Small Business Committee are accusing the Obama administration of ducking its obligations to assess the impact on small entities of a major regulatory proposal dealing with the scope of the Clean Water Act.
In a letter being sent to the top officials at U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers today, the panel's 14 GOP members called on the agencies to withdraw the proposal, complete an analysis of its impact on small businesses as laid out under the Regulatory Flexibility Act and then resubmit the rule.
"Small businesses such as farmers and ranchers, homebuilders and transportation construction firms that conduct activities and projects on land with 'waters of the United States' will be directly affected," the lawmakers wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy.
The regulatory proposal is aimed at clearing up confusion about which streams, creeks and wetlands receive protection under the Clean Water Act, spawned by two muddled Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The Obama administration's proposed rule would place all tributaries of larger waters, including ones that flow only seasonally or in response to rain events, under federal jurisdiction. It would also protect wetlands near those tributaries and all waters in the flood plain (Greenwire, March 25).
The proposal has drawn fierce opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill and a number of industry groups, who call it a federal power grab that will have a ripple effect across the economy.
Supporters, including environmentalists and sportsmen, say the proposal is actually suggesting narrower jurisdiction than was the case before the first Supreme Court decision. They also note that small creeks and wetlands provide important habitat to fish and insects and help filter pollution that would otherwise flow downstream.
Critics have faulted the agencies' economic analysis supporting the rule, which found that it would bring $2 in benefits for every dollar it costs. The agencies concluded that the rule would not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small businesses -- a finding that House Small Business Committee Republicans faulted in their letter.
"The agencies failed to provide any factual basis for the certification as required by the RFA despite the evident consequences for hundreds of thousands of small businesses," they wrote, arguing that the agencies took an approach to calculating impacts that minimized potential costs.
The committee, helmed by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), has a hearing scheduled for next week on the issue.