Rep. Scott Perry
Rep. Scott Perry

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry is fighting against an Environmental Protection Agency regulation he said will give the government too much oversight on Pennsylvania farms and private properties.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers last month announced a proposal to expand the Clean Water Act of 1972 to include more waters and wetlands.

Such a change would make farm and backyard ponds, millions of acres of wetlands and about 2 million miles of irrigation streams subject to government scrutiny.

"This is regulatory overreach," said Perry, R-Dillsburg.

Pennsylvanians already deal with enough regulations because of initiatives designed to keep the Chesapeake Bay clean, he said.

Through July 21, the EPA is holding a public comment period on the proposed changes. Letters of concern or support may be emailed to ow-docket@epa.gov or mailed to Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-2011-0880.

Clean Water Act: The changes would lead to stricter pollution controls and resolve legal debate about how to apply the Clean Water Act, according to the EPA.

In its current form, the Clean Water Act only protects navigable water. But the health of rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the streams and wetlands where they begin, said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator.


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"We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are absolutely vital to downstream communities. These places are where we get our drinking water and where we hunt, fish, swim and play," she said.

Which waterways should qualify for protection has been in dispute since former President George W. Bush took office. The Supreme Court issued decisions in 2003 and 2008 that limited the reach of the Clean Water Act.

During President Barack Obama's first term, the expansion was delayed, and both the House and Senate had bipartisan opposition to the proposal.

But earlier this year, the government agencies announced the proposal was moving forward. After the public comment period, the EPA can choose whether to make the expanded regulation official.

"This is radical, extreme, left-wing ideology," Perry said. "This will just cause individuals and businesses to fill out more papers and pay higher taxes."

Paperwork: Home builders, small businesses and farmers say the expansion will burden their operations by increasing costs and hours spent on paperwork.

"The purpose of regulations is to make things better. This won't," said Dan Leese, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau board member.

He's opposing the EPA proposal on behalf of the state's farmers who are already working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to improve several watersheds, he said.

"We want to ditch the rule or at least get a clear exemption for the agricultural community," Leese said.

An expanded rule would be a nightmare for builders, said Andy Lawrence, president of L.L. Lawrence Builders Inc. in Hanover.

"Pennsylvania probably already has as many regulations as possible with storm water and sedimentation regulations. In subdivisions, we have to add retention ponds. Now those would be regulated," he said.

The regulations will add to the cost for homeowners and mean longer waits for permits, Lawrence said.

"It can cost $10,000 to $100,000 now to handle erosion and sedimentation," he said.

The new regulation would also cost small businesses, which already spend a lot to comply with federal regulations, said Kevin Shivers, executive state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

—Reach Candy Woodall at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.