The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week announced a new definition for “waters of the United States,” which protects the nation’s navigable waters from the pollution and could spur economic growth across the country.
“EPA and the Army are providing much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners, and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “After decades of landowners relying on expensive attorneys to determine what water on their land may or may not fall under federal regulations, our new Navigable Waters Protection Rule strikes the proper balance between Washington and the states in managing land and water resources while protecting our nation’s navigable waters, and it does so within the authority Congress provided.”
Vince Matla, President of the National Association of Realtors, praised the decision by the Trump administration, saying it could help boost housing construction and affordability.
“As communities struggle with low inventory and a lack of affordable housing options, NAR has pushed for regulatory changes that will expedite permitting and spur construction throughout the U.S.,” Malta said. “Realtors commend the administration for striking an appropriate balance between prudent environmental protections and regulatory clarity, a move that does not reduce environmental protections of any waters but provides certainty to developers as the nation works to address our insufficient supply of housing.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in January that total housing starts rose 16.9% in December 2019 from November 2019 to 1.6 million—an annual increase of 40.8%.
Single-family housing starts rose 11.2% in December 2019 from November to 1.05 million, while permits fell slightly from the prior month.
“As close to 5 million millennials turn 30 this year and enter their prime home-buying stage, demand for housing is ramping up. Riding a wave of favorable financing, younger buyers have embraced homeownership, drying housing inventory to two-year low,” said realtor.com’s Senior Economist Geroge Ratiu. “With the generation’s rallying crying that there are not enough affordable homes, it is clear that there is ample room in the market for a significant increase in new construction, especially in the entry- and mid-level price segments.”
According to the EPA, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule “ends decades of uncertainty” over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. For the first time, the EPA and the Army are recognizing the difference between federally protected wetlands and state-protected wetlands.
The revised definition identifies four categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: Territorial seas and traditional navigable waters, like the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River; perennial and intermittent tributaries, such as College Creek, which flows to the James River near Williamsburg, Virginia; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments, such as Children’s Lake in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters.