Falls Church, Va. — The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC) joined with 375 trade associations and chambers from 50 states to voice strong concerns with a rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dramatically expand the scope of federal authority over water and land uses across the United States. The groups, representing a wide range of industries, called for the proposal to be withdrawn. The effort was led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Although PHCC wholeheartedly supports the protection of our nation’s water and land resources, we see many flaws in this shortsighted regulation,” says PHCC President Kevin Tindall. “This is an effort by the EPA to redefine water in America … to control waters that were never before regulated as waters of the United States, such as waters in all floodplains, banks and man-made trenches and ditches.
“For PHCC’s members – and many others involved in the construction arena – the proposed rule would require obtaining more permits and environmental reviews, which could create project delays or even kill a project, and would result in increased project costs,” Tindall added.
In its official comments, the combined groups detail several examples of the impacts of the proposed rule, including:
• Maps prepared by EPA show the rule could expand federal jurisdiction over waters from 3.5 million river and stream miles to more than 8 million river and stream miles;
• The rule would make most ditches into “tributaries.” Routine maintenance activities in ditches and on-site ponds and impoundments could trigger permits that could cost $100,000 or more;
• These permitting requirements likely would trigger additional environmental reviews that would add years to the completion time for ordinary projects;
• Even if a project can get a permit, firms will often have to agree to mitigate environmental “damage” with costly restoration/mitigation projects;
• The proposal likely also would result in more stringent storm water management requirements, which would affect retailers, companies with large parking lots, “big box” stores, etc.
As the co-signers’ comments state: “The proposed rule is really about the Agencies’ overreaching attempt to replace longstanding state and local control of land uses near water with centralized federal control. In light of the overwhelming evidence that the proposed rule would have a devastating impact on businesses, states, and local governments without any real benefit to water quality, the Agencies should immediately withdraw the waters of the U.S. proposal and begin again. The current proposed rule is simply too procedurally and legally flawed to repair.”