March 25, 2014

Draft Water Rule Harmful to Co-ops


By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer

In a move that would hurt electric cooperatives’ operations and their bottom lines, a draft proposed rule could subject nearly all bodies of water to Clean Water Act requirements, according to NRECA.

NRECA is advocating that the Obama administration turn back the proposal.

“Such an expansion of Clean Water Act rules would have significant impacts on co-ops by increasing the number and costs of permits needed for distribution and transportation corridor construction and maintenance and substations,” said Kirk Johnson, NRECA senior vice president, government relations.

Expanding the law to cover all ditches, flood plains, wetlands, riparian areas and seasonal streams could require discharge permits for water flowing into, rather than out of, some treatment or cooling water ponds, he said. Further, it would subject a vast number of areas to oil spill contingency planning.

The draft proposal defining “Waters of the U.S.” was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Corp of Engineers and is under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget. OMB must approve a proposal before it can be published in the Federal Register and open to a public comment period. EPA has indicated that the proposal will be out soon.

But a draft leaked to BNA last fall contains major revisions broadening how water bodies are defined and the scope of the Clean Water Act. The changes would essentially extend federal jurisdiction over nearly every body of water—including seasonal streams and isolated wetlands— and extend federal control over local land-use decisions.

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