In their early reading of the final Clean Water Rule, dubbed “Waters of the U.S.” in its infancy, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Government Affairs staff cite exclusion of certain operations at ready mixed concrete plants, but are reviewing the document for more specifics on industry impact and producer compliance.
Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army officials contend that the rule, jointly announced late last month: ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier and faster for businesses and industry; is grounded in law and the latest science, and shaped by public input; and, maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act,” says Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations.”
The federal government has traditionally defined Clean Water Act subjects as “navigable” waters. According to NRMCA Government Affairs staff, the Clean Water Rule expands EPA and Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over navigable and non-navigable waters further upstream—potentially threatening current and future activities on or near those covered areas, including concrete plants.
Announcement of the rule drew pointed response from NRMCA allies. “Members work diligently to protect our nation’s water resources, following existing federal, state and local laws. This rule will add significant costs to aggregates producers with little or no environmental benefit,” says National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association President Michael Johnson. “Increased costs will be passed along to the taxpayers through a higher price tag for infrastructure projects.”
“This rule will impact a wide range of U.S. industrial and agricultural activities at a time when workers are just getting back on the job after eight years of tough economic times,” adds Portland Cement Association President James Toscas. “This is simply the wrong kind of regulation at the wrong time.
“We take environmental compliance very seriously. This rule will make it much more difficult for a cement production facility not only to comply, but also to even know whether it is in compliance. We also foresee construction projects being delayed and stalled as contractors struggle to figure out how to comply with complex new requirements that go far beyond anything Congress intended with the Clean Water Act.”
In response to public opposition to the Clean Water Rule, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation that requires regulators to work with states, industry, and other stakeholders to develop practical ways to protect water quality. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate. “This is yet another example of government overreach that is unlikely to help the environment, but very likely to hurt the economy. Congress is right to send EPA back to the drawing board on this one,” Toscas observes.
The final rule was outlined in a pre-publication form; once an official version is released, it will become effective in 60 days.