Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of landowners, allowing challenges to federal regulatory decisions affecting personal property rights via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vs. Hawkes.
The Army Corps of Engineers is notorious for imposing an excessively broad and burdensome approach to the Clean Water Act (CWA) on individuals and businesses alike. Their permitting process is far more than just filling out a piece of paper – rather, it can be a year’s long struggle costing landowners and small businesses thousands of dollars, only to be denied for activities that do not, in fact, violate the CWA.
Though I am grateful the Supreme Court stood up to the Corps’ unreasonable permitting process, its long history of regulatory overreach has stood in the way of crucial job creation, including in our own backyard, and that has to change.
One example of this problem is the Corps’ treatment of farm ponds. For many years, the agency has ignored provisions in the CWA that promote agriculture and forestry activity, which frustrates the growth of those two vital industries. I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to push back on this regulatory overreach, and this week’s court decision recognizes that the Corps’ enforcement practices and excessively broad interpretation of the CWA clearly have significant consequences for private property rights and the economy that must be addressed.
The onerous Corps’ process has also hindered major economic development initiatives in Southside Virginia. Local officials in Danville-Pittsylvania County have recently worked together to acquire permits from the Corps to develop the Berry Hill mega park, a proposed economic development site aimed at attracting new manufacturing enterprises. The site is undoubtedly well-situated to generate economic activity, however, yet again, the regulatory obstacles presented by the Army Corps of Engineers have impeded its progress and thus job creation.
To remedy this frustrating problem, I introduced bipartisan legislation along with Representative Morgan Griffith and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, known as the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act, to scale back the Corps’ arduous permitting process. This bill specifies that the lack of a committed end-user company should not be a reason to deny a permit that meets all other legal requirements. If passed, our legislation would effectively remove the regulatory roadblock that is preventing projects like Berry Hill from proceeding. It is essential that we continue to fight this federal red tape in order to ensure our economy and our fundamental rights are not obstructed for our future generations by a permitting process.
This past week’s dismal jobs report, which found that the economy only created 38,000 jobs last month, underscores the need to overhaul misguided regulatory policies of which the Corps’ approach is just one example. With thousands of young people preparing to enter the workforce after graduating high school and college, now is the time to get the government off the backs of those who will invest in innovation, entrepreneurship, and job development to provide great opportunities in our communities. We must do more to ensure our policies are not standing in the way of real economic and job growth, and I will remain focused on these policies for the hardworking people of Virginia’s Fifth District and across our country.
If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at hurt.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.
Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District of Virginia in Congress.