A new EPA rule on Waters of the U.S. will slow utility construction work and delay the nation's goals of universal broadband access and a stronger, more reliable power grid, according to the Power & Communication Contractors Association.
"The Power and Communication Contractors Association strongly opposes the EPA's recently announced final rule on Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and the repeal of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR)," the association said in a statement. "PCCA members across the country are working tirelessly to expand access to high-speed broadband, modernize and strengthen our nation's electric grid, and provide the essential workforce for these and many other critical infrastructure projects. However, burdensome federal regulations and policies have slowed work and jeopardize the goals set by the Biden administration to achieve universal access to broadband and a modern electric grid within the next decade. Instead of critical permitting reforms and similar regulatory updates, this decision rolls back positive changes made during the last administration. With a case affecting WOTUS regulations pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, this decision injects confusion into what should be a busy year of construction. PCCA urges the Biden administration to roll back this regulation as soon as possible and asks the new 118th Congress to make construction permitting reform a top priority."
The new rule, Revised Definition of Waters of the United States, was announced on December 30, 2022, and goes into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register (the end of February). An EPA summary of the rule is at www.epa.gov/wotus/revising-definition-waters-united-states.
The rule is certain to be challenged by Congress and in the courts. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.Dak.) issued the following statement:
“The Biden administration continues to push overbroad regulations that impose increased costs and greater constraints on our economy, which ultimately lead to higher prices for American consumers,” Hoeven said. “Like the Obama-era rule, this new WOTUS definition violates private property rights and is the wrong approach for our nation. Instead, we need regulatory relief that encourages investment and reduces costs for energy development, agriculture producers and construction, among others, while empowering states to protect the water resources within their borders.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also weighed in:
“If we are to meet our ambitious climate and infrastructure agenda, a consistent, predictable, and durable Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition is foundational. The Chamber and our members are concerned that the Phase 1 Rule will do quite the opposite and create more uncertainty and instability, especially as the Supreme Court moves toward deciding the Sackett case.
“We will carefully review the new rule with an eye to assessing whether it is consistent with all applicable legal requirements, including the appropriate scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The business community urges EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to pause before taking any additional steps that would further complicate infrastructure permitting decisions.”