Senate Fails to Defund Waters of the U.S. Rule

Last week, the Senate failed to pass an amendment preventing the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from using federal funds to enforce the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule. Senator John Hoeven’s (R-ND) amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill received 56 votes, falling just short of the 60 votes needed to add the amendment to the larger funding bill.

Issued in May of 2015, this controversial rule grants the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to regulate not just “navigable waters” but wetlands, streams, and possibly man-made ditches as well. This redefinition has many members in the real estate community concerned that federal agencies will violate private property rights and prohibit the use of land for both commercial and industrial real estate development.

The EPA’s desire to impose excessive regulation on businesses and property owners is not surprising. In a 2012 Supreme Court case, the EPA sought the power to impose fines of $75,000 per day on an Idaho couple for trying to build a home near Priest Lake.

As housing prices continue to increase due, in part, to a lack of supply, the overregulation of land development is the last thing the real estate community needs. Rising housing prices can price first time home buyers out of the market and reduce revenue for mortgage lenders and real estate agents alike. Congress should continue seeking ways to rein in environmental overreach including passing the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act.

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