BRANDED: Reject WOTUS expansion to ensure affordable, reliable housing

By Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04)

Reject WOTUS expansion to ensure affordable, reliable housing
By Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04)

When you hear “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, it’s likely that your mind immediately shifts to the impacts this regulation has on America’s agriculture industry. As a farmer, it’s on my mind constantly. WOTUS and an overbearing Clean Water Act have the potential to destroy the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers across the United States and hamstring our nation’s food supply. Unfortunately, the ramifications go far beyond food security.
Over the last year and a half as Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, I have had the opportunity to travel to my colleagues’ districts across the country and work with state, local, and national stakeholders to highlight the significant impacts federal regulations have on rural communities. These travels and these partnerships have highlighted the onerous effects policies like the Obama-era WOTUS rule have placed on almost every aspect of our lives and our economy.
While the impacts of WOTUS are certainly felt by agricultural producers, one of the sectors most harmed by regulatory uncertainty and burdensome permitting delays is also one that is utilized by every family in the United States: housing.
Earlier this month, Western Caucus Members gathered for a working luncheon with state leaders from the National Association of Homebuilders. These homebuilders from across the United States shared their firsthand experience with burdensome regulations and highlighted the uncertainty floating around the Biden Administration’s ongoing efforts to revive WOTUS and the impacts this would have on the housing industry.
In my home state of Washington, for every $1,000 increase in the price of a home, 2,200 families are priced out of homeownership. Permitting delays currently add an average of $26,000 to the price of a new home in our state. So, if you’re doing the math, that’s 57,200 families that are being priced out of homeownership because of burdensome, duplicative, and oftentimes redundant permitting delays. These statistics are of particular concern because as homebuilders in our state face an average 6.5-month permit approval timeline, Washington already has the fewest housing units per family household in the nation. If the WOTUS rule is revived, permitting would take longer, fewer homes would be built, and the houses that do would become even more expensive.  
I represent rural Central Washington, where our population is growing exponentially, and our homebuilding industry is struggling to keep up in the face of these regulations. If we are going to ensure that each family has access to affordable, reliable housing, we must reduce the regulatory burden on our homebuilders – that starts by delivering commonsense clean water regulations, not an expansive WOTUS rule.
The Supreme Court is poised to hear a case – Sackett v. EPA – that could help provide a clear definition of “navigable waters” and the certainty communities across the nation need.  Unfortunately, the Biden Administration continues to barrel forward with the rulemaking process to dismantle the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule and impose restrictions on industries and landowners throughout the country.
Alongside my fellow Western Caucus Members, I submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the Sackett case and continue to be steadfast in my support for empowering state and local farmers, ranchers, conservationists, landowners, and – of course – homebuilders to protect our clean water.

I will continue to lead the Western Caucus in efforts to restore the Clean Water Act to its original congressional intent because we understand that the strongest environmental protections occur at the state and local levels – not from the federal government.

Dan Newhouse represents Washington's 4th Congressional District and serves as Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.

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