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Clean Water: Bad for Business?

The House Small Business Committee opposes new Clean Water Act regulations.
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You'd think most business owners would favor having abundant, clean, clear water. It's one of the nation's great resources after all, and you kind of can't have life without it.

But a hearing held by the House Small Business Committee on Thursday shows many business owners clearly think clean water is not worth it, if it interferes with their productivity. Chairman Sam Graves (R., Mo.) had this to say about proposed changes to the Clean Water Drinking Act:

This EPA 'Waters of the United States' proposed rule is a classic example of regulatory overreach. This rule will impose significant additional costs and burdens on small businesses to comply with Clean Water Act requirements for thousands of small streams, ditches, ponds, and other isolated waters, some of which may have little or no connection to traditionally navigable waters that the Act was designed to protect. 

Here's a summary of the proposed changes, which appeared in the Federal Register in April:

The Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps 
of Engineers (Corps) are publishing for 
public comment a proposed rule 
defining the scope of waters protected 
under the Clean Water Act (CWA), in 
light of the U.S. Supreme Court cases in 
U.S. v. Riverside Bayview, Rapanos v. 
United States, and Solid Waste Agency 
of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers (SWANCC), and 
Rapanos v. United States (Rapanos). 
This proposal would enhance protection 
for the nation's public health and 
aquatic resources, and increase CWA 
program predictability and consistency 
by increasing clarity as to the scope of 
"waters of the United States’" protected 
under the Act.

Environmentalists and others are concerned that with the growth of fracking and increased chemical dumping that clean water everywhere is a diminishing resource and under threat.

But Graves disagrees, and recently had this to say in a letter to the EPA's Administrator:

Small businesses such as farmers and ranchers, home builders and transportation construction firms that conduct activities and projects on lands with "waters of the United States" will be directly affected. For example, permits may be required for activities such as removing debris and vegetation from a ditch, applying pesticides, building a fence, or discharging pollutants.

If you ask me, you shouldn't be able to dump pollutants or pesticides into local water sources at all, so a permit seems like a sensible requirement.

But plenty of small-business owners disagree, like Alan Parks, vice president of Memphis Stone and Gravel Co. in Memphis, Tennessee, who testified on behalf of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association:

The proposed rule has no clear line on what is 'in' and what is 'out,' making it very difficult for our industry and other businesses to plan new projects and make hiring decisions. If it is determined development of a site will take too long or cost too much in permitting or mitigation, we won't move forward. That means a whole host of economic activity in a community will not occur--all of this in the name of protecting a ditch or farm pond.

Hopefully the public comment period now underway will allow all sides to air their grievances and move forward with sensible regulation that won't allow for water pollution while businesses can thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated: May 30, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER | Staff Writer | Staff Writer, Inc. and Inc.com

Jeremy Quittner is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and Inc.com. He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.




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