Senate Panel Approves Expansion of Clean Water Act to All Waters
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 18 voted along party lines to approve legislation that would dramatically expand the scope of the Clean Water Act and have an enormous negative impact on the home building industry.
In a 12-to-7 vote, the committee approved S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act, which replaces the phrase “navigable waters of the United States” in the law with “waters of the United States.”
This change would effectively extend the federal government’s reach to all waters — including storm sewers and retention basins, roadside ditches, seasonal streams and any “activities affecting” all waters in the country.
During the committee markup, the underlying bill was replaced by a substitute offered by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that retained the original bill’s goal of removing the term “navigable waters of the United States” from the Clean Water Act and, therefore, does nothing to limit the federal government’s jurisdictional reach.
The bill also fails to address the broken federal permitting process.
NAHB opposes S. 787 and is participating in a coalition — including the Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Realtors® — to defeat the measure.
Prior to the Senate panel’s vote, NAHB sent a letter to every committee member urging them to oppose the measure.
“Because of the unprecedented scope and enormous regulatory burden the legislation will place on home building activities, I urge your opposition to S. 787,” the letter said.
The letter explained that home builders, who are involved in all facets of home construction and land development, must often obtain Clean Water Act permits to construct their residential, commercial and mixed-use projects.
“The expansion of federal jurisdiction proposed by S. 787 will lead to many more projects requiring federal permits and will exacerbate permitting delays, which will increase construction costs and drive down housing affordability,” the letter said. “As the housing industry, and the national economy as a whole, try to claw their way out of this recession, now is not the time to increase the cost of homeownership.”
During consideration of the bill, several Republicans committee members expressed serious reservations that it would infringe on state and local rights.
Sen. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) said he has placed a “hold” on the bill and indicated that he would filibuster to prevent it from moving to the Senate floor.
For more information, e-mail Annie Raymond at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8307.