The U.S. EPA's proposed Waters of the U.S. language does not provide a realistic overview of its scope or costs, a new analysis prepared by the Brattle Group for the Waters Advocacy Coalition shows.
The report, authored by University of California-Berkley faculty member Dr. David Sunding and dated May 15, finds EPA's proposed rule, contrary to the agency's indications, would expand the definition of waters of the U.S. to include small, isolated wetlands, ephemeral drains and many ditches.
An expanded definition would provide the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers with more jurisdiction to enforce regulations outlined in the Clean Water Act.
According to the report, the EPA does not accurately estimate the rule's impact on affected communities and businesses, and under-represents jurisdictional areas. Sunding writes that the EPA's analysis of the rule "suffers from a lack of transparency" and does not provide calculations or basic assumptions the analysis is based on.
Related: Farmers React to EPA's 'Waters' Rule
Sunding also writes that the enforcement savings EPA suggests the waters rule will bring as a result of increased clarity are not explicitly noted.
"While there may be some legitimacy to this claim, it remains unquantified and thus plays little value in the economic analysis. Whatever enforcement benefits are realized may be offset by programmatic changes that expand permitting and administrative requirements," he writes.
Ultimately, the report suggests that a "more thorough analysis is required to properly assess the economic impacts of a definitional change."
The report was prepared with support from WAC, which includes several farm and ag groups – the American Farm Bureau Federation, CropLife America, the Fertilizer Institute, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Corn Growers Association and others.
AFBF, which is currently running a "Ditch the Rule" campaign to publicize its discontent with the rule, suggests it will dictate land use across the U.S. if implemented.
"The EPA's proposed waters of the U.S. rule is irreparably flawed from an economic standpoint," Bob Stallman, AFBF president, said in a statement. "EPA has not been forthright about the costs to our communities and businesses, including countless small businesses."
AFBF says also that the rule skirts two previous Supreme Court rulings and direction from Congress.
For more on the rule, view the report, "Review of 2014 EPA Economic Analysis of Proposed Revised Definition of Waters of the United States," and check out a five-part discussion from Farm Futures blogger and ag attorney Gary Baise:
Water Police, Part One: EPA Coming to Your Farm?
Water Police, Part Two: EPA Proposal Won't Help Ag
Water Police, Part Three: EPA's Definition of 'Tributary'
Water Police, Part Four: EPA's Definition of 'Adjacent Waters'
Water Police, Part Five: EPA's Definition of 'Other Waters'