BCA Applauds Court’s Stay of EPA-COE Waterways Rule

The Business Council of Alabama today joined a chorus of voices applauding Friday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that blocks the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Corps of Engineers’ provision of the federal Clean Water Act that gives unprecedented control over private property to the federal government.

The Obama Administration’s rule “attempts to clarify which small streams, wetlands and other waterways the government can shield from pollution and development.” But judges 2-1 stayed the regulations nationwide until the full court in Cincinnati can rule whether it has jurisdiction to consider lawsuits against them.

“We applaud the court panel’s thoughtful decision to halt implementation of the rule and we urge the full court to find that the rule is not allowed under the EPA law, exceeds the agency’s authority granted by the Constitution, and cavalierly trespasses on individual rights,” said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary.

“The Waters of the U.S. rule if ultimately upheld will have a devastating effect on manufacturing, private industry, farms, and virtually all commerce due to its overreaching attempts to regulate even the tiniest stream and rivulet, which may be created temporarily when it rains,” Canary said.

The EPA and the Corps of Engineers jointly promulgated the Waters of the United States rule that has been denounced by business and agriculture interests nationwide, including the BCA’s national partners, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The BCA supported the NAM and the U.S. Chamber’s July intervention in court on the grounds that the two agencies did not consider the financial burdens of the rule and even conducted a flawed cost-benefit analysis. “We need a clear rule that gives individuals a fair chance to follow the law,” the NAM said.

“We should resolve the legality of the rule before having to fund the implementation of a very expensive, illegal rule,” said William Kovacs, U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs.
Members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation applauded the decision.

“This ruling is great news for Alabama’s homeowners, farmers, small businesses, and municipalities,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said. 

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said the EPA attempted to expand its reach into private lands by making even decorative ponds and ditches subject to federal regulation. “This over-the-top, unilateral, unnecessary regulation from the federal government could result in sudden and drastic increases in compliance costs for farmers, foresters and almost anyone who owns land,” Roby said.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said, “This is great news for farmers across the 4th District and Alabama. This was another example of executive overreach.”

“This is a major victory over the heavy hand of government,” U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, said.

A federal district court in North Dakota in August had issued a preliminary injunction against the rules but the injunction applied only to the 13 states that sued to block WOTUS. Friday’s injunction applies nationwide.

In May, the U.S. House passed HR 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would block the proposed rule from going into effect by instructing the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to abandon the rule and start the rule making process over, seeking input from those who would be affected: state and local governments, farmers, and private landowners, among others.

-Dana Beyerle