Chamber Priority Bill Clears House

Wednesday afternoon, House Bill 175 passed out of the House Chamber by a 61-33 vote.

Ensuring that Ohio’s environmental regulations are no more stringent than their federal counterparts is crucial to facilitating economic growth in our state. HB 175 clarifies the Ohio EPA’s definition and regulation of ephemeral streams and aligns it with the U.S. EPA’s new classifications of what is considered a navigable water that needs regulatory oversight.

Last year the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced a new definition for the Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.  The Ohio Chamber of Commerce submitted comments to the U.S. EPA supporting the agency’s move to return sense and predictably to WOTUS determinations. Under the new definition, four categories were designated to clearly define a water of the United States:

  1. Territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
  2. Perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters;
  3. Certain lakes, ponds and impoundments; and
  4. Wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters

The new rule also outlines what is not considered a WOTUS, which includes features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall, also known as ephemeral streams. Ephemeral streams are features that flow in direct response to rain or snow melt and receive little to no water from a spring or headwater. HB 175 redefines an ephemeral stream as an ephemeral feature to represent this classification of water more accurately since there is no permanent water flow. Due to this new categorization, ephemeral streams would no longer be subjected to a section 401 water quality certification. Not only would this be a cost savings to the business owner, but it would also create clarity as to what types of features must and mustn’t be regulated.

Over the years, business owners have faced many new, onerous restrictions, red tape, and costs before being allowed to alter their land in even the smallest way. HB 175 promotes environmental protection by limiting unnecessary government overreach while giving the business community the regulatory certainty they need to effectively operate.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce applauds the passage of HB 175 and will continue to update its member companies as this issue moves through the legislative process.