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New proposed guidance released by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 27 to make Clean Water Act regulations clearer, more consistent and more effective in protecting the nation’s water resources looks like another example of regulatory overreach that will ultimately push home building costs higher, according to policy experts at NAHB.
The guidance is intended to streamline the permitting process for builders and developers who are planning projects in watersheds where the presence of wetlands or nearby navigable “waters of the United States” require a permit from the EPA or the Corps.
An initial reading of the revised guidance by the NAHB staff and association members as they prepare to submit comments finds that the proposal falls short of that goal.
“The EPA and the Corps are proposing to increase the scope of their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The fact is, however, that the wording of the legislation that determines their responsibilities has not changed,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen.
“Extending federal jurisdiction regarding ‘waters of the U.S.’ increases the regulatory burden and raises the cost of new homes without providing a demonstrated benefit to the environment,” Nielsen said.
“In addition, it results in ‘jurisdiction by default,’ rather than requiring that the agencies demonstrate why a piece of property belongs under their jurisdiction,” Nielsen said.
The Clean Water Act was designed to protect intrastate waterways and other bodies of water necessary for commerce, he noted.
Previous efforts to extend federal jurisdiction over “waters of the U.S.” have failed to win congressional support because they are costly and time-consuming for both regulators and permit applicants and they invariably tread on states’ rights.
The EPA has also said that it is planning a rulemaking to further clarify its jurisdiction over “waters of the U.S.”
Members of Congress and industry groups — including NAHB — have continuously asked the EPA and the Corps for a rulemaking, rather than repeated iterations of “guidance.”
NAHB will participate in the rulemaking when the EPA begins the process.
For additional information, email Glynn Rountree at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8662.