Business groups urge AG to sue EPA, too

Last week, 63 state legislators signed a letter calling on Tennessee’s attorney general to sue the Environmental Protection Agency. (Previous post HERE.) A group of business organizations did so today.

News release distributed by coalition members
NASHVILLE, July 14, 2015 – A united coalition of Tennessee business groups is urging the state of Tennessee to protect its citizens from significant federal overreach that will greatly damage the state’s economy and to defend the state’s sovereignty over its waters.

Yesterday, the groups delivered a letter asking Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to join 28 other Attorneys General on multiple lawsuits against the unlawful, destructive “Waters of the U.S.” rule, set to take effect Aug. 28, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers. The coalition is asking Slatery to seek an order declaring the rule unlawful and prohibiting its implementation.

The business groups include the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Road Builders Association, Home Builders Association of Tennessee, Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Mining Association. Yesterday, NFIB, the U.S. Chamber and other members of the coalition filed suit against the federal agencies to stop the rule’s implementation.

“The ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule will significantly hinder economic development in Tennessee by negatively impacting virtually all business sectors including agriculture, commercial, industrial and residential construction, energy development, manufacturing, mining, and transportation,” said Catherine Glover, President of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“The EPA’s radical rule and ongoing power grab of states’ and individual rights must be stopped,” said Jim Brown, Tennessee State Director with the National Federation of Independent Business, noting the EPA’s rule bypassed a mandatory small business regulatory review requirement. “Our coalition is encouraging General Slatery to join forces with other states because Tennessee shares a keen interest in stopping the EPA’s dramatic overreach before it wreaks havoc on jobs, business operations, and unsuspecting taxpayers and consumers.”

“Tennessee farmers simply cannot operate under this rule,” said Lacy Upchurch, President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. “The EPA’s unlawful rewrite of the Clean Water Act is so vague and subjective that farmers cannot possibly know which basic agricultural activities will leave them vulnerable to penalties of $37,500 a day. At a minimum, the rule will harm Tennessee’s agricultural community by dramatically increasing permitting costs, which will be borne by farmers and passed along to their customers and all Tennesseans.”

Tennessee’s construction industry, which recently emerged from the Great Recession, is also at high risk because the rule will lead to unnecessary delays and soaring costs for the industry and their customers.

“Home builders and subcontractors will be forced under the rule to obtain previously unnecessary expert evaluations and EPA water permits that will be very expensive,” said Susan Ritter, Executive Vice President of the Home Builders Association of Tennessee. “New construction will slow dramatically, thousands of jobs will be lost and home buyers will be shocked at price increases.”

“Mining provides the basic materials necessary for modern life,” said Chuck Laine, President of the Tennessee Mining Association. “These rules greatly threaten continued operation of Tennessee’s mining industry without providing any measurable environmental benefits.”

Water quality standards, by law, are the sole province of the states, which a recent Supreme Court case upheld. The EPA is attempting to rewrite the Clean Water Act, which only Congress can do, to incorporate under its jurisdiction dry creek beds and ditches, farmer’s small ponds and even puddles so it can impose significant punitive new fees and penalties.

Tennessee must protect its right to regulate, the groups told Slatery in their letter, while leaving “navigable waters” like rivers and bays under the purview of the Clean Water Act. The groups remain committed to commonsense regulation and working toward a clearer water rule definition.

Note: The NFIB and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have filed a lawsuit on their own against the rule in Oklahoma. A separate NFIB release on both the Tennessee letter and the Oklahoma lawsuit is HERE.