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.