September 25, 2013

Business group cries foul over EPA water rule

From: RegWatch — The Hill’s Regulation Blog

By Ben Goad

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) neglected to take small businesses into consideration during the development of regulations with major implications for land development, a powerful industry group charged Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is sending a letter Tuesday to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), demanding that the draft regulations be returned to the EPA for additional analysis.

“EPA plainly has not met its obligations to understand how this rule will affect small businesses,” the letter contends.

The proposed regulations, submitted to the White House last week, are meant to clarify which bodies of water are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. Though the action was only a preliminary step toward final a final rule, the NFIB is accusing the EPA of bypassing statutory rulemaking requirements.

Specifically, the group says the agency has violated the 1996 Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, which requires regulators to convene panels to assess the effect of proposed rules in small companies.

The exercise would likely have raised red flags in the case of the clean water rule, according to Dan Bosch, NFIB’s manager of regulatory policy.

“We have every reason to be concerned that there would be a significant impact,” he said.

For businesses, the group argues, the planned regulations would further complicate – if not prohibit altogether – development along any stream, pond or estuary defined as a regulated body of water.

The application process for such development can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, NFIB says.

Landowners who develop the land without permission face fined up to $37,500 a day, according to the group.

“The EPA is pursuing a significant expansion of federal jurisdiction that will necessarily exert more government control over private landowners, which includes small business owners,” the group writes. “While multinational corporations with tremendous capital resources might be able to afford such.”

Bosch suggested the courts could toss out the regulation if the Obama administration does not relent and return the rule to the EPA.

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