By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

ARTBA and 11 other industry associations July 2 sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging the agency disregarded important administrative law requirements and exceeded its jurisdiction when it released a rule defining “waters of the United States.”

The rule would require additional burdensome permitting requirements and likely be also used as a litigation tool by project opponents, both of which would result in delays to key transportation improvements and ultimately cost taxpayers more money, according to ARTBA. The EPA says the rule is necessary to protect drinking water and preserve natural water bodies.

But the industry coalition complaint criticizes the regulation for being overly vague. It also charges that EPA’s scientific and economic analyses were inadequate to support the rule.

In fighting in the rule in the legislative and regulatory arenas for nearly a decade, ARTBA has repeatedly warned EPA that roadside ditches play an important role in the public health and safety of the nation by dispersing water, and they should not be regulated like wetlands.

The new rule, however, did not categorically exempt roadside ditches from federal jurisdiction.  Instead, the EPA set forth a myriad of qualifications for a ditch to be exempt from permitting requirements.  Such a piecemeal approach, ARTBA noted when the rule was released in May, creates confusion and delays.

Among some of the industry groups joining the suit are the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Homebuilders, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Mining Association.

The lawsuit is just the first step in a legal process that could take years to resolve, and ARTBA will continue to provide updates as the litigation proceeds through the federal court system.  For further information on the lawsuit, please contact me at ngoldstein@artba.org.