NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Small Business Administration Objects to EPA Water Rule

October 3, 2014

There is internal strife in the Obama Administration over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed water regulation, the Hill reports. The EPA's "Waters of the United States" rule has gained a lot of criticism, but on Wednesday, another agency within the Obama administration came out against the proposal.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) aims to halt the "discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters," defined in the act as "the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas." Currently, regulations define "waters of the United States" as traditional navigable waterways, interstate waters, waters that could affect interstate or foreign commerce, tributaries, wetlands and the like. Polluting any of these waters requires a permit under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA proposed the new rule in April to clarify the agency's authority to regulate bodies of water. The proposed rule would, for example, consider streams that flow into a larger body of regulated water as waters of the United States.

In a letter to the EPA, the Small Business Administration indicated its opposition to the proposed rule and urged the agency to withdraw it. The rule, according to the SBA, would have a "significant economic effect on small businesses."

  • While 98 percent of streams and 98.5 percent of wetlands, according to an analysis done by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, currently fall within the "Waters of the United States" definition, the new proposal would increase those numbers to 100 percent.
  • And while "other waters" (which the EPA intends in its proposal to add to the list of regulated bodies) are currently not covered by the CWA, 17 percent of those waters would be covered under the new rule.
  • All of the new areas covered would bring with them new permit requirements. The new rule would increase permit costs between $19.8 million and $52 million each year.
  • Mitigation costs - the costs associated with mitigating the discharge of material into waters -- would increase by $59.7 million to $113.5 million annually.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has spoken out against the EPA's proposal. According to the federation's president, "EPA has been heedless and cavalier in its disregard for the American farmers who would be most affected by this unworkable proposal."

Source: Tim Devaney, "Small Business Administration hits EPA over water rule," The Hill, October 1, 2014; "Definition of "Waters of the United States" Under the Clean Water Act," Letter from Small Business Administration to Gina McCarthy and Maj. Gen. John Peabody, October 1, 2014. 


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