Producer expresses concerns over proposed EPA water rule

By |  July 30, 2014
Alan Parks

Alan Parks, Memphis Stone & Gravel Co.

Alan Parks, vice president of Memphis Stone & Gravel Co. in Memphis, Tenn., testified at a congressional hearing earlier this year on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rule that would broaden the scope of waters that are subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Pit & Quarry caught up with Parks for more detail on the impact this rule would have on producers like Memphis Stone & Gravel should it be enforced.

P&Q: What concerns you most about the proposed EPA rule?

AP: The timeframe on a jurisdictional determination is five years. We have projects leased for 20 or 30 years. We have made business decisions on the existing interpretations.

The proposed changes would very likely subject many of these sites to additional permit requirements or force us to lose reserves. Both our company and the private landowner lose in this scenario.

P&Q: What is the specific issue you and the rest of the aggregates industry have with this rule?

AP: The problem lies within the definition itself. One only needs to look at the proposed changes to the existing definition, side by side. It’s a significant change that has serious impacts to the regulated community.

The changes will extend what is potentially regulated – dramatically, in my opinion. This will add much more complexity and cost to our process – and anyone else that does anything on land – because it creates such a broad scope for what is subject to federal jurisdiction.

For example, terms like “neighboring” create the possibility for “waters” that have a shallow subsurface hydrologic connection to a jurisdictional water to be regulated. So how will the regulated community determine this possibility, and at what cost?

From Memphis Stone and Gravel’s point of view, it would be a rare event to not encounter shallow groundwater in sand-and-gravel deposits that we mine. Again, that underscores the problem with the proposed rule: the uncertainty and the scope of jurisdiction.

P&Q: How would the proposed rule impact how Memphis Stone & Gravel earns its permits?

AP: Being a small company, we attempt to do much of our permitting in house. But these changes will force us to use more consultants. This will be a long learning curve.

Also, keep in mind, this does nothing but tell you what is or is not regulated; it has nothing to do with operating. So yes, the additional complexity, uncertainty and permitting requirements will significantly delay a project, which ultimately can be the biggest cost for industry.

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