Testifying on behalf of NAHB before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Douglas Davis, a green builder from St. Augustine, Fla., said that the recently enacted federal regulation, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), will boost housing affordability by providing straightforward regulatory requirements. The NWPR more clearly defines “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) and therefore makes Clean Water Act compliance easier for any business trying to comply.
“By excluding most man-made ditches and isolated ponds on private property from federal jurisdiction, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule corrects the vast overreach of prior rules, restores common sense to the regulatory process, reduces project costs and safeguards America’s water resources,” said Davis.
According to Davis, under earlier versions of the WOTUS definition, builders and developers were ill-equipped to understand whether their projects required federal Clean Water Act permits.
“The most frustrating aspect of the Obama-era Clean Water Act permitting regulations is the fact that those requirements were uncertain and constantly changing,” said Davis. “One of our projects was delayed for 10 years as we sought to obtain the necessary Section 404 permit. Even with the best environmental planning and making every effort to comply, we often were forced to give up and walk away.”
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the NWPR is that waters that no longer fall under federal jurisdiction will go unprotected. This is untrue. State and local governments not only have the authority to regulate waters but also play an important role in protecting waters because they have a better understanding of the landscape and the needs of their community.
“The greatest difference between federal permitting and state permitting is that we have generally found state agencies to operate under reasonable deadlines and with a greater degree of accountability,” said Davis.
NAHB research shows that nearly 25% of the cost of a single-family home stems from federal, state and local regulations and that the cost is even higher for multifamily development. Housing will be unable to help lead the economic recovery unless the Trump administration and Congress repeal onerous regulations and promote sensible replacements.
“The NWPR is a perfect example of the regulatory actions we need to get our economy moving again,” said Davis. “NAHB commends the Trump Administration for rolling back the 2015 Obama rule and putting forward a replacement that respects congressional intent, follows Supreme Court precedent, provides clarity and predictability to the permitting process, and protects our aquatic environment.”
More information about the NWPR can be found on nahb.org.