Congressional Action Needed for Proper Water Safeguards

By Mark S. Kuhar

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) has introduced “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act” (H.R. 5078). This bipartisan legislation establishes safeguards that preserve important federal-state partnerships in protecting our nation’s waterways.

“I am pleased that Republicans and Democrats on the committee acted in a bipartisan fashion to recognize the role that states must play in regulating waters within their respective boundaries,” said Southerland. “By turning back the administration’s brazen power grab, we’ve stood in defense of a federal-state partnership that has worked for 40 years under the Clean Water Act. As a result, we’ve taken the first step in restoring certainty for the farmers, manufacturers, and construction and transportation industries that drive America’s economic growth.”

A proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would redefine “waters of the United States” and expand the scope of federal jurisdiction. Cement plants in the United States currently comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that require strict adherence to water quality guidelines.

However, the proposed rule is confusing and ambiguous, and will likely add requirements to water permits. For example, an added provision in the proposed rule is that “waters of the United States” may be defined “on a case-specific basis,” and consequently, infrastructure projects and construction site developments could be delayed due to increased hydrological and geological surveys to determine jurisdictional questions.

“As proposed, the rule could undermine cement manufacturing’s long-term investment by preventing full access to limestone deposits,” Cary Cohrs, chairman of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) Board of Directors said. “Cement is vital to maintaining and building our nation’s infrastructure. The EPA and the Corps must fully consider the potential economic impacts that the proposed rule may place on the regulated community and on state and local governments as well as the construction and building sectors.”

“The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act” will provide the proper safeguards against regulatory overreach while allowing industry the certainty necessary to improve our nation’s economy.

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