What's Hot in Small Business – Chris Crum
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Small Businesses Concerned With Clean Water Act Rule Expansion
Some small businesses are concerned with the potential ramifications of a proposed rule change to the four-decade old Clean Water Act (CWA). The primary concern centers on the re-classification of what waters are to be regulated by the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act is a federal law that governs water pollution. It was passed in 1972 with the goal of preventing pollution of the nations’ waters. With a newly proposed “Waters of the United States” rule, federal jurisdiction would be given over a large number of streams, ponds, ditches, etc., which would have effects not only on the waters themselves, but also on nearby lands and businesses that utilize one or both.
Missouri Representative Sam Graves said in an op-ed at RollCall.com, that the consequences for millions of small businesses, farmers and local governments could be “dire.”
“Over the years, the agencies’ regulatory interpretation of CWA jurisdiction has been stretched further and further to include bodies of water that have little or no connection to waters that are used for traditional commerce,” he wrote. “…This extraordinary regulatory intrusion into the lives of many farmers, ranchers and small-business owners has the likely potential to be economically devastating.”
Graves chairs the House Small Business Committee, and recently held a hearing in which small businesses expressed their grievances. An owner of a stone and gravel company is concerned about the ability of his own business and others to plan new projects and make hiring decisions as well as potentially lost economic activity from a site taking too long or costing too much in permitting.
It seems like a legitimate concern when you consider that the rule can apply to something as small as a farm pond or a ditch (which is apparently the case).
The Small Business Committee has called on the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed rule. They’ve already extended the comment period, but have so far not taken it off the table.
According to Graves, if the rule goes through, routine projects and “basic activities like cleaning debris and vegetation from a ditch or building a fence near a small stream” will be needlessly delayed.
Local governments in Texas have been joining up to oppose the rule for basically the same reasons with one county judge calling it an “extremely overreaching regulation”. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is fighting to stop the rule, which it considers a “regulatory land-grab”.
Penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act can be up to a reported $37,500 a day, which could have a huge impact on most any small business.
The comment period for the proposal lasts until October 20th.