House Passes Water Bill That Helps Landowners and Environment

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The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today commended the House for passing legislation 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 rulemaking process.

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

Approved by a bipartisan vote of 261 to155, H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, would require EPA and the Corps 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.

By proposing to dramatically enlarge the definition of “waters of the United States” to include almost any water body, such as ditches, mudflats, 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,” said Woods. “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governments before unveiling their plan last year, prompting 34 states to formally request that the proposed rule be withdrawn.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 did not adhere to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires an assessment on how the proposal would affect America’s small businesses.

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.).

Information provided by NAHB