For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Contact: Peter Jenkins (202) 265-4189
EPA’s Analysis Finds Nearly Half Billion Dollars in Annual Business Losses Possible
Washington, D.C. — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) buried its own financial calculations predicting up to $485 million in losses annually to a thriving industry sector that preserves U.S. wetlands through compensation programs, wetland mitigation banks, and ecological restoration projects, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These losses will result from EPA’s “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which was released in final form today.
The Navigable Water Protection Rule will dramatically gut Clean Water Act protections. Overall, PEER estimates up to 60% of U.S. waters and wetlands and 90% in the arid West could be filled without permits under the new rule. People and companies who fill in these wetlands and waters would no longer be required to compensate for these losses by helping to create and protect new wetlands.
Under the “No Net Loss” of wetlands policy first adopted by President George H. W. Bush in 1989, the national policy goal for the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) was to balance wetland losses under the Clean Water Act with mitigation and restoration efforts, so that the total acreage of wetlands in the country remained steady or increased. This widely-praised policy provided numerous benefits such as migratory bird habitat, human recreation, flood control, and cleaner water. EPA’s final rule of today discards most of the benefits of the No Net Loss policy.
EPA’s Economic Analysis of its rule, buried in obscure tables predicts “the harm in terms of losses of compensatory mitigation purchases of between $217 million and $485 million annually.” Mitigation banking and related services carried out by private companies and non-profit groups have grown dramatically since passage of the Clean Water Act. The losses go far beyond dollars; they mean that thousands of fewer acres of wetlands will be protected each year. EPA admits: “The impacts to these waters without avoidance, minimization, or compensation would result in forgone benefits over time, including habitat support, recreation, and aesthetic benefits.” (p. 72 of Economic Analysis). The final rule issued today ignores these impacts.
“Ecological restoration of wetlands that were degraded in the past has been a huge national success story because it provided so many benefits for people and wildlife,” said Kyla Bennett, PEER’s Chief Scientist. “This final rule is a crushing blow to the mitigation banking and restoration industries. EPA needs to re-weigh the costs and so-called benefits of its outrageous dirty water rule.”
Loss figures are buried in the report, Economic Analysis for the Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States,” issued in support of its rule by EPA and the Department of the Army on January 22, 2020, at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-01/documents/econ_analysis_-_nwpr.pdf; p. 173, Table III-58, showing $217.2 to $485.5 million in worst case losses. While the mitigation banking and ecological restoration industry will suffer those losses, the report labels them as “cost savings of reduced mitigation requirements.” That is, it exclusively focuses on the narrow savings to the land developers who no longer will be required to pay for the mitigation costs.