Illinois Businesses Concerned About Final WOTUS Rule

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Representatives from a coalition of Illinois business organizations – from farmers to homebuilders — say the final rule governing “waters of the U.S.” amounts to a “gotcha regulation” for farmers and landowners.

“Even if landowners know their land like the back of their hands, it will be difficult to immediately recognize features that the federal government will categorize as a tributary, potentially costing them thousands of dollars in fines if enforcement action is taken,” said Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of natural and environmental resources.

The coalition, which includes Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB), held a teleconference Tuesday to outline their concerns about the final rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers. Published Monday in the Federal Register, the rule becomes effective Aug. 28.

The coalition’s concerns include: an “illegal public relations campaign” in favor of the proposed rule, the final rule’s all-encompassing definitions, and its ambiguity.

“The final rule’s vague definitions make it easy for the federal government to regulate not only water, but land as well, and allow for the agencies to identify land as a tributary — which is subject to regulation — based on past, rather than current, conditions,” Lurkins said. “To make things worse, regulators don’t even have to be present on the land in question to regulate it. From their Washington D.C. offices more than 800 miles from Illinois, the agencies can use ‘desktop tools’ to establish the presence of a tributary on private lands.”

Dan Eichholz, executive director of Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers, described the rule as a “double whammy” for the aggregate industry.

“Not only could this make it much more difficult to open a new facility or expand an existing facility, but basically all the products we produce go into the construction industry,” Eichholz said. “This rule has the potential to essentially halt or significantly slow construction projects.”

Bill Ward, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Illinois, said preliminary estimates show the average cost of permits for an average size subdivision increasing from about $50,000 to $270,000, and the length of time to get them increasing from 1-2 years to 3-5.

“The hard part for our engineers who will do the work on this — they won’t even really give us estimates,” Ward said. “If you ask for work to be done after first of August, they may not give you a true estimate because they don’t know how much time it takes, and the regulations are so confusing and the criteria is so new and different that they’re really not sure how long it’s going to take to figure it out,” Ward said.

Adam Nielsen, IFB’s director of national legislation and policy development, said Farm Bureau members continue to write Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park, to urge them to support S. 1140. The legislation would require EPA to withdraw the rule and start over.

Click here for more information on WOTUS, and a link to American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) updated ‘Ditch the Rule’ website.

Content provided by FarmWeek – Deana Stroisch