EPA ‘Waters’ proposal clouds aggregate supplies, concrete plant management, construction permits

Sources: National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver Spring, Md.; CP staff

NRMCA Government Affairs staff is closely tracking the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed expansion of the jurisdiction of waters covered under the Clean Water Act, noting how the rule “holds unnecessary and overreaching regulatory implications that would adversely affect ready mixed concrete operations, such as washout pits, sedimentation ponds, settling basins.”

EPA’s “Waters of U.S.” rule expands federal jurisdiction from 3.5 million to 8 million-plus river and stream miles. As the agency closed out a public comment period in mid-November on the rule, national groups representing ready mixed producer suppliers and customers weighed in.

“At a time when Americans are concerned about our crumbling infrastructure, it is unbelievable that the EPA seeks to make an unwarranted rule change that dramatically impacts the cost of aggregates and the products that they go into—like highways, roads and bridges,” says National Stone Sand & Gravel Association Chairman Paul Detwiler III (New Enterprise Stone & Lime). “Ultimately, these increased costs are borne by the taxpayers yet there is little, if any, benefit from the rule.”

“The proposed rule is so sweeping that vast areas of the American landscape, including areas that are dry most of the year, would come under the agencies’ new authority. Expanding the definition of a ‘navigable’ waterway to include dry stream beds and areas that may not even be wet simply makes no sense,” adds NSSGA President Michael Johnson. “‘Waters of the U.S.’ is pure and simple regulatory overreach that is not supported by the law, judicial precedence or science.”

“The proposed rule may force small aggregates companies to delay or even drop plans to expand in areas where reserves are located,” the association notes in formal comments. “That could have a major ripple effect on the ability of these operators to meet the needs of their customers, potentially affecting many programs such as highways, home building, flood control and environmental restoration.”

“The negative impact of this poorly crafted and overreaching regulation, particularly on small businesses, has been well documented and we urge the Obama administration to withdraw this flawed proposal immediately,” observes Associated Builders & Contractors Vice President of Government Affairs Geoff Burr. “Unfortunately, this proposal will lead to more ambiguity and uncertainty for contractors, a more costly and time consuming permitting process and additional delays on jobsites, all of which will hamper job creation.”

“The uncertainty surrounding what will actually be considered ‘waters of the United States’ under this proposal, coupled with the EPA’s and [Army Corps of Engineers’] broad authority to make determinations, could chill any construction near waterways that could conceivably be covered by the rule,” notes ABC in formal comments. “This will almost certainly lead to fewer projects overall and negatively impact job creation in the construction industry.”

ABC responded to “Waters of U.S.” on its own and as a member of the broad-based Waters Advocacy Coalition. Joining ABC and NSSGA in the group are Associated General Contractors of America, National Association of Home Builders and Portland Cement Association.