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House Passes Pro-Property Rights Water Bill

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House Passes Pro-Property Rights Water Bill

U.S. House of Representatives passes legislation that curbs the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' federal jurisdiction over waterways and wetlands 


By NAHB Housing Policy Update June 15, 2015
U.S. wetlands
This article first appeared in the PB June 2015 issue of Pro Builder.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on May 12 that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from vastly increasing federal jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways and wetlands without going through the proper rule-making process.

Approved by a bipartisan vote of 261 to 155, H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, would require the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to withdraw their proposed rule and develop a new plan in consultation with state and local governments and other affected stakeholders, including the small-business community. The bill also stipulates that such a plan must be based on sound economic and scientific analysis.

“This legislation would prevent a federal land grab that would raise housing costs and harm conservation, water quality, job growth, and economic development,” said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. 

By proposing to dramatically enlarge the definition of “waters of the United States” to include almost any body of water, such as ditches, mud flats, isolated ponds, and other water features, the agencies would vastly increase federal regulatory power over private property.

“The proposed rule would not add any meaningful environmental protections but it would exacerbate regulatory uncertainty by significantly extending the areas in which home builders are required to get permits,” Woods said. “In turn, this would lead to bureaucratic delays, additional costs, and more expensive homes.” 

The agencies failed to consult with state and local governments before unveiling their plan last year, prompting 34 states to formally request that the proposed rule be withdrawn. Moreover, EPA and the Corps of Engineers did not adhere to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires an assessment of how the proposal would affect America’s small businesses.

A coalition of more than 40 business organizations, including the NAHB, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Association of Realtors, also opposes the plans of the EPA and Corps of Engineers to expand their regulatory powers.

The NAHB is urging the Senate to pass companion legislation S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, sponsored by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

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ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing more than 140,000 members involved in remodeling, home building, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing, and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. For more, visit nahb.org.

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