Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson this week provided an update regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule related to the “Waters of the United States” at the request of Councilman George Cole.
Lawson said the rule was introduced on May 27 and was written in conjunction with the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The National Association of Counties (NACo) was very much involved in the opposition of the proposal, due to the fact that most counties across the nation already have rules and regulations set forth for the waters of the U.S.”
Lawson said the rule was discussed in October at the Delaware Association of Counties, which passed a resolution opposing the expansion of the Clean Water Act.
“That resolution was passed along to the federal government.”
He stated that the main concern regarding the rule is that it will bring in new types of waterways, such as ditches and tributaries, under federal regulation.
“NACo has come out very strong in opposition because, historically, outside of Delaware, counties regulate that at a local level. We heard at one presentation — for a county to clean out its own ditch, it’s probably going to have to wait and get permits and take six months to delay… just to clean out a ditch.”
Lawson said that, with the final rule released, if the County chooses to oppose it, they must seek to have it repealed through an act of Congress.
“There is currently a bill, H.R. 1732, sponsored by Rep. Shuster of Pennsylvania, that calls for the repeal of the new run. This bill passed the House of Representatives, but it awaits Senate consideration. It has been sitting in the U.S. Senate for over a month now,” he said, noting that U.S. Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) had voted for the bill when it went through the House.
Lawson said that, even with a strong opposition, the rule may pass in the Senate.
“It doesn’t look good, considering the rule was scrutinized throughout the drafting stages and it still got introduced and finalized.”
Cole said that he had brought it up because it’s something the County would have to deal with when doing sewer construction or airport construction.
“It was bad enough before,” he said, stating that he had heard reports it was “very expensive, time-consuming and a cost to taxpayers, and really no improvement in protecting these waterways.”
Cole went on to state that the definitions included in the rule were unclear and posed a concern.
“It could have a serious impact.”
Cole recommended the council write to the state’s two U.S. senators regarding the County’s opposition to the rule.
“They should hear from us,” he said. “We can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution… If they don’t hear from us, they’re going to assume we support all of this. We may want to consider the impact it’ll have on county government and municipal governments.”
A draft resolution to support the National Association of Counties’ efforts to repeal the rule will be presented to the council at their Tuesday, June 16, meeting.