November 17, 2014

MSCI Signs Letter Opposing Waters Of The U.S. Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ deadline for commenting on their proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule ended last Friday, Nov. 14. The EPA and the Corps of Engineers reportedly received more than 250,000 comments – thank you to all of the MSCI members who wrote in to the two agencies to weigh in against this regulation. MSCI signed onto a letter with more than 375 other organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and chambers of commerce from all 50 states. 

The letter argued, “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.” 

The coalition of organizations also noted:

  • Maps prepared by EPA show the rule could expand federal jurisdiction over waters from 3.5 million river and stream miles to well over eight 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 can cost $100,000 or more;
  • New permitting requirements would likely 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 would likely also result in more stringent storm water management requirements, which would affect retailers, companies with large parking lots, “big box” stores, etc.

Over the next few months, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers must address the public comments on the rule before issuing a final version next year – or, hopefully, abandon the current version altogether. With a new majority in the U.S. Senate, it is also increasingly likely

Republicans in Congress will also seek to limit the scope and impact of the rule.