An office within the federal agency responsible for protecting the interests of small businesses and helping ensure a strong economy has asked the Administration to withdraw a proposed rule that changes the scope of existing law without Congress' authority and expand federal regulatory power under the Clean Water Act.
In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) raised concerns that the proposed rule "Definition of Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act" would have "direct, significant effects" on small businesses. The SBA Office of Advocacy stated that the proposed rule was improperly certified by the EPA and Corps, and urged withdrawal of the rule.
Bipartisan legislation passed the House 262 to 152 on September 9, 2014 to prohibit the same proposed rule from moving forward. The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078) was introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), and is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of House Members that includes Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH).
"This proposed rule needs to be halted before it delivers a serious blow to America's small businesses, which are the backbone of our communities and our economy," said Southerland. "Last month, the House delivered a strong, bipartisan message to the Administration to turn back this sweeping growth of government, and now the SBA Office of Advocacy has added its voice in opposition to the rule. It's time for the Administration to start listening."
"It's encouraging that the SBA Office of Advocacy is standing up to the Administration and other agencies that are trying to steamroll Congress with this effort that improperly broadens federal regulations and threatens small businesses in the United States," Shuster said. "The Administration has continued to ignore Congress on this issue, and if it insists on moving forward, it will also be ignoring its own agency that speaks for American small business owners."
"Since this rule's introduction, my colleagues and I have been extremely concerned with the devastating effects it will have on small businesses around the country," Gibbs said. "On September 9th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Waters of the United States Overreach Protection Act with bipartisan support to stop this proposed rule and make it clear that the agencies involved should partner with the states as the Clean Water Act intends. The Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy shares the same concerns of many Americans and Members of Congress. The proposed rule is a power grab by the Administration that would impose unnecessary regulations that hinder job creation."
Changing the scope of federal law is solely the responsibility of Congress, and over the past several Congresses, the legislative branch has repeatedly determined not to expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. However, finalization of the proposed rule would allow the Administration to simply bypass the legislative process in order to achieve its expansionist agenda.
H.R. 5078 upholds the federal-state partnership to regulate the Nation's waters and prohibits the Administration from implementing the rule that changes the scope of the Clean Water Act and threatens to open many new waters and private property to federal regulation, including ditches, man-made ponds, floodplains, riparian areas, and seasonally-wet areas.