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About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties

National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S. NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 coun- ties. NACo advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innova- tive solutions through education and research and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.

NACo testifies before bicameral hearing on “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule On Feb. 4, El Paso County, Colo. Com- missioner and NACo’s First Vice President Sallie Clark, testified on behalf of the Na- tional Association of Counties (NACo) be- fore the before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) at a hearing, “Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments.” Clark’s testimony focused on the importance of the local, state and federal partnership in crafting practical rules to ensure clean water without impeding counties’ fundamental infrastructure and public safety functions. Te rare bicameral joint hearing was

led by Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) who said that he expected all 79 House T&I and Senate EPW Committee members — 20 EPW and 59 T&I committee members — to attend. Te hearing focused on the impact the proposed rule would have on states, local governments, their communi- ties, businesses and industries. In April 2014, Te U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly released a new proposed rule that would amend the definition of “waters of the U.S.” within the Clean Water Act and dramatically expand the range of public safety infrastructure that falls under federal permitting authority. Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secre- tary of the Army (Civil Works) testified on the first panel. Members of Congress ques- tioned McCarthy and Darcy for three hours on the proposed rule. McCarthy indicated the proposed rule was in response to stake- holder requests for a rulemaking and, in fact, will make it easier to determine what waters fall under federal jurisdiction. Darcy stressed the rule was based on science and would give regulators in the regional offices greater clar- ity on jurisdictional waters. Clark was joined on the second panel by

E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General, State of Okla.; Adam H. Putnam, Florida Com-


missioner of Agriculture, Florida Depart- ment of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, on behalf of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; Timo- thy Mauck, Commissioner, Clear Creek County, Colo.; and Lemeul M. Srolovic, Bureau Chief, Environmental Protection Bureau, Office of New York State Attorney General T. Schneiderman. At the hearing, Clark discussed the main

reasons that contributed to NACo’s decision to call for withdrawal of the rule, including the proposal’s impacts on counties; an inad- equate consultation process with state and local governments; ambiguous and inconsis- tent terminology; and ongoing delays with the current permitting process. After work- ing closely with county technical experts — county engineers, legal staff, public works directors and stormwater managers — who implement federal and state programs on the ground every day, NACo this past November called for the proposed rule to be withdrawn until further analysis and more in-depth con- sultation with state and local officials could be completed. “NACo supports common-sense envi-

ronmental protection. Expanded federal oversight and the proposal’s vague language would create more uncertainty and delays in critical work without any proven environ- mental benefit,” said Clark. “Let me be clear, counties support clean water. Our goal is to ensure public safety and economic vitality while safeguarding water quality. Te current proposal falls short of this goal.” “Tis issue is so important to counties be-

cause we build, own and maintain a signifi- cant portion of public safety infrastructure. Te proposed rule would have direct and extensive implications,” Clark said. Local governments own nearly 80 per- cent of all public road miles and half of the nation’s bridges. Counties also own water quality systems and other infrastructure like roadside ditches, storm water systems, green infrastructure and drinking water facilities. Clark emphasized the importance of the

all levels of government working together to craft workable rules and implementing Clean Water Act programs on the ground. “Coun- ties are not just stakeholders in this discussion

— we are key partners in the federal-state-lo- cal intergovernmental system,” she said. “Tis is an opportunity to reset the clock and work together. NACo looks forward to working with Congress and federal agencies to craft a clear, concise, workable definition of “waters of the U.S.” to achieve our com- mon goal: to protect water quality without inhibiting the public safety and economic vitality of our communities.” Clark concluded, “In the eyes of county

governments, this is not a political issue. It is an issue of practicality and partnership.” Te public comment period for “waters

of the U.S.” closed on November 14, 2014. Te agencies are currently reviewing over one million comments and plan to release a final rule by late spring of 2015. Since the proposal was unveiled in April,

NACo has advocated for greater clarity and launched an online resource hub and ac- tion center. Go to legislation/Pages/WOUS.aspx to access the hub and action center.

NACo releases Economic Tracker By Emilia Istrate, Research Director NACo has released the 2014 County

Economic Tracker: Progress through Adver- sity, an analysis of the recovery patterns across the 3,069 county economies in 2014. Te conditions of a county econ- omy can constrain and challenge county governments, residents and businesses, but can also provide opportunities. Te 2014 County Economic Tracker ana-

lyzes the annual changes of four economic performance indicators — economic out- put, also known as gross domestic product (GDP), employment, unemployment rates and home prices — between 2013 and 2014 across county economies. In addi- tion, it explores 2012–2013 wage dynam- ics, taking into account the effect of local cost-of-living and inflation of average an- nual wages in county economies. Te focus of the report is on the coun- ty economy, not the county government. County economies are the building blocks of regional economies (metropolitan areas

“NACO Briefs” Continued Page 50 >>> 49

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