AL.COM: Opinion: EPA seeks clarity on Clean Water Act for farmers, landowners and states

Concern has been raised that burdensome and excessive federal regulations can delay or prohibit American businesses from investing in infrastructure or land development projects that will create jobs, grow crops, and improve how we manage our natural resources. Upon taking office, President Trump initiated a process to review and replace unnecessary regulatory barriers, which included the Obama Administration’s 2015 “waters of the United States” definition.

For years, farmers, landowners, municipalities, and businesses have been spending too much time and money trying to determine whether waters on their land are “waters of the United States” and subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. In some cases, they pay consultants or lawyers tens of thousands of dollars only to discover that they need federal permits that cover isolated ponds, channels that only flow after it rains, and wetlands far removed from the navigable waters the Clean Water Act was specifically designed to regulate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army are delivering on the President’s agenda by proposing a new definition for “waters of the United States.” The agencies’ proposal would end years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. It would clarify the role of our state and tribal partners—those closest to and most knowledgeable about their own waters—and help them more effectively and efficiently manage their land and water resources. Also, it would respect the limited powers that the federal government has been given under the Constitution and the Clean Water Act to regulate navigable waters.

Our new proposal would make it easier to understand where the Clean Water Act applies – and where it does not. It would facilitate critical infrastructure projects, reduce barriers to business development, and support economic growth. This clarity is critically important to the southeast where we are recovering from several natural disasters which impacted infrastructure and where we are experiencing significant business and economic growth.

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