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EPA Looks Ahead to 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its 2015 regulatory agenda on Nov. 25. The agency is on track to finalize several major rules.

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) is keeping an especially close watch on the proposed rule on waters of the United States (WOTUS).

NSSGA urged the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its proposal to radically expand the scope of federal authority over water and land uses across the U.S.

Aggregates producers agree that the policy change is unjustifiable and the cost to the American taxpayer and industry would far outweigh any benefit.

“At a time when Americans are concerned about our crumbling infrastructure, it is unbelievable that the EPA seeks to make an unwarranted rule change that dramatically impacts the cost of aggregates and the products that they go into – like highways, roads and bridges. Ultimately, these increased costs are borne by the taxpayers yet there is little, if any, benefit from the rule,” said NSSGA Chairman Paul Detwiler III of New Enterprise Stone & Lime, New Enterprise, Pa.

In its final comments on the rule submitted to the agency, NSSGA said that the federal government’s attempt to seek authority over areas that have little or no connection to flowing streams and rivers is confusing and unnecessary.

NSSGA President and CEO Michael W. Johnson said, “The proposed rule is so sweeping that vast areas of the American landscape, including areas that are dry most of the year, would come under the agencies’ new authority. Expanding the definition of a ‘navigable’ waterway to include dry stream beds and areas that may not even be wet simply makes no sense.”

Johnson said that EPA’s analysis shows that the rule expands federal jurisdiction from 3.5 million river and stream miles to well over 8 million miles. “EPA’s proposed ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule is pure and simple regulatory overreach that is not supported by the law, judicial precedence or science.”

NSSGA is not alone in this fight. The U.S. Small Business Administration, state and local governments and other trade associations representing a broad swath of industries and interests are asking for the rule to be withdrawn. The association comments specifically focused on the impact on small business, as 70 percent of the association’s members meet that criteria.

“The proposed rule may force small aggregates companies to delay or even drop plans to expand in areas where reserves are located. That could have a major ripple effect on the ability of these operators to meet the needs of their customers, potentially affecting many programs such as highways, home building, flood control and environmental restoration. Many of these operators provide materials for rural areas, thus affecting other small businesses such as farmers and ranchers,” the submission stated.

Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, said that the agency wants to finalize the Clean Water Act jurisdictional rule by the summer of 2015, at the latest. He noted that the agency has received 400,000 comments on the proposed rule.

Other rules on the EPA agenda include greenhouse gas emissions standards for existing power plants; the second phase of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks – model year 2018 and beyond; the rule addressing the national ambient air quality standards for ozone; and the 2015 renewable fuel standards.

In other EPA news, a rock quarry in Bradford, R.I., Copar Quarries, has agreed to settle claims that it violated federal clean air standards.

According to a complaint filed by EPA’s New England office, Copar Quarries failed to conduct the required emissions testing, keep proper inspection log books, and notify EPA when it began operating several pieces of equipment in this quarry in 2011.

Copar will pay $80,000 and correct the violations identified by EPA.

The company operates a portable stone crushing and gravel processing plant with several crushers and screeners. Copar’s facility operates on about 150 acres near residential properties.

With the capacity to crush more than 150 tph of stone, Copar is subject to the federal standards established under the Clean Air Act for non-metallic mineral processing operations. EPA asserted that the company violated these standards by failing to notify the agency when it started operations and by failing to do the required emissions testing.

In addition, the company did not keep a logbook of inspections and corrective actions on its wet suppression system designed to control emissions of particulate matter and reduce dust.

Copar has since corrected the violations identified by EPA, which will help to reduce Copar’s emissions of particulate matter to the air in the surrounding community.