(ARLINGTON, VA) —National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson today welcomed a vote by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approving the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, S. 1140. The bill would repeal the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, provide guidelines on what is and is not a “water of the US,” and require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) to re-propose a new rule only after consulting with stakeholders.
“As not-for-profit electric utilities that maintain more than 2.5 million miles of distribution power lines covering 75 percent of our country’s landmass, including waterways, electric co-ops strongly support S. 1140 and the bipartisan group of Senators pushing for a re-write of this rule. As finalized, WOTUS creates permitting requirements for ‘waters’ never regulated before, such as isolated ponds and places that only contain water after a rain. Requiring permits for the newly-identified waters will increase time, uncertainty and cost for maintaining current infrastructure and new construction. That’s why co-ops support legislative efforts requiring EPA and the Corps to consult with affected stakeholders and strike a balance between environmental protection and costs.”
Electric cooperatives have significant concerns with the final version of WOTUS, which became final on May 27. The rule asserts federal control beyond navigable waters, dramatically expanding the regulatory reach of the EPA and the Corps to isolated ponds, ditches and other areas that only rarely have water. The new rule also allows EPA and the Corps to rely on historic information to identify jurisdictional waters, regardless of current conditions or land uses.
As co-ops expand and maintain the electric infrastructure necessary to meet the growing demands of consumers they need a process that will remove delays and reduce costs, not increase both.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.