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BNA: EPA Has Lost Credibility With Land Owners, Small Business Committee Republicans Say

Bloomberg BNA: EPA Has Lost Credibility With Land Owners, Small Business Committee Republicans Say
By Dean Scott
July 30, 2014

House Small Business Committee Republicans told a top Environmental Protection Agency official July 30 that the agency has lost credibility with farmers, land owners and small businesses over an April proposal they fear would expand EPA jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to farm ditches and other minor streams.

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe sought to allay what he said were misconceptions about the proposed waters of the U.S. rule, which the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled in March and published April 21 (79 Fed. Reg. 22,187).

The joint proposal would bring under federal jurisdiction all tributaries of streams, lakes, ponds and impoundments as well as wetlands that affect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of navigable downstream waters (77 DER A-13, 4/22/14).

Perciasepe said the rule, which would clarify the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction over the nation's waters and wetlands, would only apply to waterways that have a significant “nexus” in affecting downstream navigable waters. He said the agency makes every effort to seek input on its regulatory proposals and that the regulations generally would not cover minor waterways, such as roadside ditches, as long as they don't affect water quality of larger waterways downstream.

Unwarranted Expansion of Jurisdiction?

But Republicans, including Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Scott Tipton (Colo.), said the EPA has grown tone deaf to concerns that it has overreached with its regulatory agenda under President Barack Obama.

“The farmers don't trust you, land owners don't trust you, and the public doesn't trust you,” Collins said.

Republicans said the agency's Clean Water Act jurisdiction rulemaking is an unwarranted expansion of EPA jurisdiction and fear the regulations could require permitting of roadside and farm ditches, groundwater seepage and other minor waters. Republicans on the panel pressed Perciasepe to ensure the agency applies more broadly Regulatory Flexibility Act provisions that require the EPA to seek input from small businesses on its rulemakings.

Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said he had to push the agency repeatedly over the last year to get an EPA official to testify before the panel on how its rules affect small businesses. EPA's recent rulemakings “are an unprecedented power grab that are infringing on the rights of both the individual and small business owner,” Graves said.

Perciasepe, a longtime EPA employee, is leaving his post as deputy EPA administrator in August to head the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He will succeed another former high-level EPA official, Eileen Claussen (138 DEN A-2, 7/18/14)(138 DER A-17, 7/18/14).