Amena H. Saiyid
Dec. 5 --Subjecting an additional 3 percent of U.S. waters and wetlands to
Clean Water Act regulation would yield nearly twice as much in benefits as it
would cost affected industries, according to a cost-benefit analysis of a draft rule obtained by
A joint analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency
and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows that the benefits of implementing
the draft rule asserting Clean Water Act jurisdiction over the nation's waters
and wetlands would range from $300.7 million to $397.6 million annually, while
the costs would be between $133.7 million and $200 million.
to the analysis, obtained Dec. 4, the greatest costs would be incurred by
developers, mining companies (coal and other resource extraction), landowners
and other permit applicants. These parties could be required to mitigate
losses of wetlands and streams and to obtain dredge-and-fill permits and
stormwater runoff permits under the draft jurisdiction rule.
incurring costs under this draft rule would be state and local governments,
which would have to invest in infrastructure, and state and federal agencies
that would have to process more permit applications for pesticide spraying
near covered waters and stormwater discharges. In addition, state and federal
regulators would have to conduct more certifications to ensure that certain
activities do not cause water quality standards violations, according to this
States would neither incur nor avoid costs in reporting
impaired waters, the analysis said, even though the draft jurisdiction rule
includes previously unregulated ephemeral and intermittent streams.
of the key estimated annual costs in the analysis:
mitigation: $8.7 million to $13 million;
mitigation: $51 million to $100.5 million (benefits estimated at $257.6 million
to $345.1 million);
permit applications: $19.7 million to $52.9 million;
permit administration: $7.4 million to $11.2 million;
stormwater permit applications: $25.6 million to $31.9 million (benefits
estimated at $25.4 million to $32.3 million);
stormwater permit administration: $0.2 million.
The agencies estimated the benefits of
protecting headwaters of larger navigable rivers, associated wetlands, and
other open waters based on expected improvements in marine and land-based
wildlife habitat and related biodiversity, as well as enhanced recreational
and fishing opportunities. The analysis suggested that these waters and
wetlands also provide benefits by helping to filter sediment and other
pollutants, reducing flooding, stabilizing shorelines and preventing erosion,
recharging ground water and recycling nutrients.
Above all, the
agencies emphasized that the draft rule would reduce the need for costly
jurisdictional determinations in areas where the federally protected status of
wetlands and waters was unclear.
The EPA was the primary author of the
“Economic Analysis of Proposed Revised Definition of Waters of the United
States” document, and the Corps of Engineers was a contributor. The agencies
sent the analysis along with the draft rule clarifying Clean Water Act
jurisdiction over the nation's waters and wetlands to the White House Office
of Management and Budget for an interagency review Sept. 17 .
federal government's 2014 regulatory agenda, the EPA indicated that it would
release its proposed jurisdiction rule in December 2013 following a 90-day
Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager for the National
Wildlife Federation wetlands and water resources division, said that date is
likely to be pushed back as a result of the government shutdown.
the draft rules, the agencies would be authorized to assert Clean Water Act
jurisdiction over all natural and artificial tributary streams, lakes, ponds
and wetlands in floodplains and riparian areas that affect the chemical,
physical and biological integrity of larger, downstream navigable waters.
The agencies would also be allowed to exercise Clean Water Act jurisdiction
over wetlands and streams that are adjacent, neighboring or separated from
jurisdictional wetlands or waters by artificial berms.
proposed rule would allow the agencies to determine on a case-by-case basis
whether geographically isolated wetlands and certain other waters in the
uplands have a significant nexus to the chemical, physical and biological
integrity of downstream waters and should be considered jurisdictional.
“The agencies expect that
the outcome of the proposed rule will be an approximate 3 percent increase in
assertion of jurisdiction when compared to 2009-2010 field practices,” the
Before 2001, the agencies said, “almost all waters were
considered the waters of the United States,” but two U.S. Supreme Court
decisions on the issue, and ensuing field practices, have limited the
government's jurisdiction (Solid Waste Agency of N. Cook Cnty. v. U.S. Army
Corps of Eng'rs, 531 U.S. 159, 51 ERC 1838 (2001); Rapanos v. United
States, 547 U.S. 715, 62 ERC 1481 (2006)).
In the analysis, the EPA
said the revised definition of the “waters of the United States” in response
to U.S. Supreme Court rulings since 2001 would impose no direct costs. Rather,
the revised definition would result in indirect costs to state and local
governments as well as regulated entities that rely on this definition to
implement a variety of Clean Water Act programs.
The fact that a water
is covered by the Clean Water Act has implications for permitting of pollution
discharges from construction sites, filling of wetlands and streams,
certifications by states that activities such as dam-building or other
federally permitted activities don't harm water quality, identification and
reporting of impaired waters by states, and cleanup of oil spills.
Don Parrish, senior regulatory relations
director for the American Farm Bureau Federation, criticized the EPA analysis,
saying it is difficult to understand how the agency came up with the
“Show us the data that shows that jurisdiction on a
state-by-state basis will only increase by 3 percent,” Parrish said.
said the agencies have “exceedingly low-balled costs” because they failed to
give any justification or indication of the increase in costs to other sections
of the Clean Water Act programs, other than the dredge-and-fill program.
To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in
Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible
for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
The “Economic Analysis of
Proposed Revised Definition of the Waters of the United States” is available
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