Tag Archive for '“Waters of the United States” (WOTUS)'

Repeal of 2015 Wetlands Proposal Will Help Restore Transportation Project Certainty, ARTBA Says

The Trump administration’s repeal of a 2015 proposed rule will help restore clarity to federal wetlands regulations and reduce delays to important transportation projects, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says.

“The regulatory ping-pong on roadside ditches has created vast uncertainty for years with little environmental benefit,” says ARTBA President & CEO Dave Bauer. “Regulators should understand that delay and uncertainty only serve to increase transportation project costs. The Trump administration repeal is a common-sense approach to harmonize wetlands protection and the delivery of needed transportation improvements.”

At issue is how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that are subject to federal authority. Under the Obama administration era rule, roadside ditches could have been subject to unnecessary federal oversight, delaying transportation improvements and thereby increasing project costs and jeopardizing highway safety.

In previous regulatory comments and in legislative testimony, ARTBA has noted that ditches serve the necessary function of collecting water that would otherwise have nowhere to go but on roadways, noting that “[a] ditch’s primary purpose is safety and they only have water present during and after rainfall. In contrast, traditional wetlands are not typically man-made nor do they fulfill a specific safety function.”

The Trump administration continues work to finalize a replacement WOTUS regulatory framework that would not improperly extend federal jurisdiction over roadside ditches.  ARTBA supports this effort.

Established in 1902 and with more than 8,000 public and private sector members, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA advocates for strong investment in transportation infrastructure to meet the public and business community demand for safe and efficient travel.

ARTBA Applauds U.S. District Court Ruling That Strikes Down 2015 Wetlands Rule

A May 28 federal court ruling in the Southern District of Texas striking down the federal government’s 2015 version of the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule is a win for the nation’s transportation construction industry and builders of other much-needed infrastructure, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says.

ARTBA and 13 other trade associations challenged the rule in July 2015. At issue is how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) decide which bodies of water are under federal jurisdiction. Under the Obama administration rule, roadside ditches could have been subject to unnecessary federal oversight, delaying transportation improvements and resulting in increased project costs.

In their lawsuit, the coalition of trade groups objected to how EPA drafted the rule. The groups said that in addition to distorting U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the agency “subverted the notice-and-comment process by (among other things) failing to seek comment on scientific reports relied on in the Rule and on major revisions of the proposed rule, conducting an inadequate economic analysis, and engaging in an unprecedented advocacy campaign that led to a distorted and biased comment process.”

In the May 28 ruling, the judge agreed with the groups’ procedural arguments and decided the rule must be sent back to EPA because “those governed by the rule were deprived of notice of a substantial change to our nation’s environmental regulation scheme.” The decision blocks enforcement of the 2015 rule in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but leaves it in place in 22 other states.

At the same time, the Trump administration is in the process of both formally repealing the 2015 rule and finalizing a replacement WOTUS regulatory framework. ARTBA supports both those efforts.

Established in 1902 and with more than 8,000 public and private sector members, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA advocates for strong investment in transportation infrastructure to meet the public and business community demand for safe and efficient travel.

ARTBA Comments: Trump Executive Order on Waters of the U.S. Rule Beneficial to Transportation Permitting Process

 President Trump’s Feb. 28 executive order directing the withdrawal of the controversial “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule removes an unnecessary obstacle that would have delayed transportation improvement projects, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says.

At issue for the transportation construction industry is how the Obama Administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to redefine what collections of water constitute the WOTUS and are therefore subject to federal authority. Before EPA issued the rule, ARTBA told the agency on multiple occasions that “roadside ditches are not, and should not be regulated as, traditional jurisdictional wetlands as they are not connected water bodies and they contribute to the public health and safety of the nation by dispersing water from roadways.”

The rule, however, did not categorically exempt roadside ditches from federal jurisdiction. Instead, the EPA, in a regulatory overreach, decided a litany of qualifications must be met before a roadside ditch can be deemed exempt from federal permitting requirements.

ARTBA explained to EPA such a piecemeal approach would add another layer of burdensome permitting requirements, create confusion and increase permitting delays for transportation projects. The WOTUS rule, the association said, would also likely be used as a litigation tool to delay projects and, in the process, make them more expensive for taxpayers.

Subsequently, ARTBA, in addition to numerous other trade associations and state governments, sought relief from the federal courts. As a result of that litigation, the WOTUS rule was stayed nationwide.

It’s unclear how the Feb. 28 executive order will impact future federal court proceedings. The association said it plans to work with EPA Administrator Pruitt to craft a new rule that strikes the proper balance between necessary regulatory protection and the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Established in 1902, ARTBA is the transportation construction industry’s “consensus voice” on environmental and regulatory matters in the Nation’s Capital.