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Statement of the Hon. Nydia Velazquez on Small Business Perspectives on the Impacts of the Biden Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule

Clean water is an essential building block of any functioning economy. We depend on it for drinking, bathing, cooking, farming, fishing, manufacturing, tourism, recreation and many other activities. Without clean water, our health, environment, and economy would be at serious risk.

For the past 50 years, the Clean Water Act has safeguarded our rivers, streams, and wetlands from pollution and degradation. Since its inception, it has prevented billions of pounds of pollutants from entering our waters, and restored thousands of miles of impaired rivers and streams.

These environmental benefits have saved billions of dollars in health care costs by reducing waterborne diseases and supported millions of jobs in industries that rely on clean water.

Whether it is our growing craft beer industry which brings investment to communities across the country, or our behemoth outdoor recreation economy which provides $862 billion in economic output, robust federal protection for clean water is a prerequisite for the success of a variety of industries.

Unfortunately, the 2006 supreme court ruling in the Rapanos case upended longstanding protections for many of our nation’s precious rivers, streams, and wetlands. As a result, many stakeholders have faced confusion and uncertainty as industries seeking to pollute have attacked the scope of the Clean Water Act.

In 2020, the Trump Administration imposed the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which significantly limited federal protections for clean water by excluding safeguards for many wetlands and streams.

This rule allowed industries to pollute our waters while shifting the cost of pollution to the families, businesses, and communities downstream.

Fortunately, this rule was struck down by courts, as it largely failed to recognize the scientific evidence on the interconnectedness of our water systems. As a result, the Biden Administration has worked to revise the WOTUS rule and provide greater clarity to stakeholders while codifying important exclusions for prior converted cropland, ditches, and artificial ponds.

Over the past two years, the EPA has conducted extensive meetings with stakeholders – including many small businesses – and I believe the final product adequately reflects that.
This rule demonstrates a clear middle ground between the 2015 clean water rule, and the 2020 rule. It makes clear that we cannot sacrifice the economy for environmental protection nor sacrifice the environment for economic growth. As you will hear from our witness today – those two things go hand in hand.

Nobody here wants small businesses to deal with excessive, burdensome regulations. However, we must recognize that many regulations – especially those safeguarding our waters – serve an essential purpose in protecting families, communities, and entrepreneurs.

In fact, national survey of small businesses found that 80 percent of small business owners favor federal rules to protect upstream headwaters and wetlands.

To that end, I want to take this opportunity to announce my opposition to the Resolution of Disapproval filed by Republicans under the Congressional Review Act. Not only will this resolution not achieve the outcomes Republicans seek, but it could also actively harm the exclusions they are seeking to protect. It only adds to the confusion and uncertainty that stakeholders are currently experiencing. I advise my colleagues to carefully consider the costs that blanket deregulation could have on businesses that rely on clean water to function.

With that, Mr. Chair, I’d like to ask unanimous consent that this letter in support of the new revised definition of Waters of the U.S., signed by over 400 businesses that are dependent on clean water, be submitted to the record.

Thank you, I yield back.
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