National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson spoke recently in support of the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1732), which would require the EPA and Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and re-propose a new rule after consulting with stakeholders, including electric co-ops.

“Electric cooperatives maintain over 2.5 million miles of distribution power lines that cover 75 percent of our country’s landmass. The proposed WOTUS rule will dramatically expand the Corps’ and EPA’s regulatory reach, making it more difficult to maintain the electric transmission and distribution network,” Emerson said. “The current proposal would pile on yet more bureaucracy and red tape for everyday maintenance tasks. Electric co-ops support H.R. 1732 and ask the EPA and Corps to withdraw the proposal and work with affected organizations and individuals to ensure a reasonable outcome that balances environmental protection and costs.”

Electric co-ops have significant concerns with the WOTUS proposal. A clear, concise and reasonable definition of a navigable waterway is required to quickly determine what activities need permitting. Unfortunately, the current proposal asserts federal control beyond navigable waters, dramatically expanding the Corps’ and EPA’s regulatory reach to include land that holds isolated ponds, puddles, ditches and other areas that only rarely have water.

As co-ops expand and maintain the electric infrastructure necessary to meet growing consumer energy demands, they need a process that will remove delays and reduce costs, not increase both barriers, Emerson said.

NRECA also joined the Waters Advocacy Council in sending a letter to U.S. Sens. James Inhofe and Barbara Boxer, the respective chair and ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. As of May 18, the bill had passed in the House and was being considered by the Senate.