Stopping an Obama Admin Power Grab That Will Raise Costs, Hurt Jobs

John Boehner

Today, the House will vote on the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078), legislation sponsored by Reps. Steve Southerland (R-FL), Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), that would stop the Obama administration from implementing a proposed rule that gives Washington bureaucrats vast new authority over waters that are safely and effectively regulated at the state and local level.  

The Obama administration’s power grab spells trouble for farmers and small businesses owners, who could face steep costs and endless uncertainty under the new rule, and has sparked a bipartisan backlash in both Houses of Congress.   In May, more than 200 House Members – Republicans and Democrats – sent a letter to the administration protesting the rule.  House and Senate members of the Western Caucus followed with another letter later in the month, arguing:  

“There has been strong opposition to EPA’s approach due to the devastating economic impacts that a federal takeover of state waters would have.  Additional and substantial regulatory costs associated with changes in jurisdiction and increased permitting requirements will result in  bureaucratic barriers to economic growth, negatively impacting farms, small businesses, commercial development, road construction and energy production, to name a few.”

A subsequent hearing by the House Small Business Committee also gave small business owners the opportunity to voice their concerns:

  • “A Whole Host of Economic Activity in a Community Will Not Occur” “The proposed rule has no clear line on what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out,’ making it very difficult for our industry and other businesses to plan new projects and make hiring decisions.  If it is determined development of a site will take too long or cost too much in permitting or mitigation, we won’t move forward. That means a whole host of economic activity in a community will not occur all of this in the name of protecting a ditch or farm pond.” (Alan Parks, Vice President, Memphis Stone Gravel Company)
  • “A Significant Impact on Small Businesses Nationwide” “This proposed rule will have a significant impact on small businesses nationwide, an important notion that the agencies choose to ignore.  I am at a loss as to why the agencies refuse to give small businesses a seat at the table to discuss these impacts.  I request that the agencies start over and develop a more meaningful and balanced rule that respects the spirit of the RFA.” (Tom Woods, President, Woods Custom Homes)
  • “The Rule’s Primary Impact Will Be on Small Landowners Across the Country” “Being the owner of a small business myself in the cattle industry and knowing the detrimental impact this regulation will have on my operation, it is appalling the agencies could assert that this regulation will not have a ‘significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.’  It is clear to me that the rule’s primary impact will be on small landowners across the country.” (Jack Field, Owner, Lazy JF Cattle Co.)

(More from small business owners here, courtesy of the Small Business Committee)

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman calls the administration’s action “the biggest federal land grab — in terms of power over land use — that we’ve seen to date,” The Hill reports, and yet the Obama administration failed to even consider its far-reaching economic implications.  More than 180 agriculture, construction, energy, and mining associations warn that the Obama administration’s proposed rule will have “dramatic impacts on job creation and economic investment and growth.”  “There will certainly be costs directly imposed on small businesses through the permit process and other compliance requirement,” says the National Federation of Independent Business.  “In addition, the proposed rule makes it clear that many waters will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis, therefore providing little, if any, additional certainty.”

H.R. 5078 “provides a safeguard against the federal government’s overreach into regulatory decisions best made by officials at the state and local levels,” says Rep. Southerland.  “By getting Washington out of the way, we’re also providing our farmers, manufacturers, transportation builders, and construction industries with the certainty they need to grow America’s economy, free from the regulatory burden of D.C. bureaucrats.”

With today’s vote, House Republicans are continuing to work on behalf of middle-class families to advance common-sense solutions that will create a better environment for job creation and economic growth.  Senate Democrats must do their part by acting on this bill, and the many other House-passed jobs measures awaiting action in that chamber.

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