Small Business Administration hits EPA over water rule

A fight is breaking out inside the Obama administration over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed water regulation.

The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy on Wednesday urged the EPA to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. rule, which seeks to clarify the agency's authority to regulate smaller bodies of water like streams and rivers.

The EPA has drawn plenty of criticism from business groups that say the rule will be too expensive to comply with, but this is the first time another federal agency has attacked it.

SBA said it is "extremely concerned" by the rule.

"Advocacy advises the agencies to withdraw the rule," SBA wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyGlobal climate pact may bump into Senate roadblock House Dems push EPA on fracking study Watchdog: EPA was too slow to act on Flint MORE. "The rule will have a direct and potentially costly impact on small businesses."

The SBA's Office of Advocacy is charged with making sure federal agencies take small businesses into consideration when making new rules. So it is not uncommon for the agency to criticize a rule that it thinks would hurt small businesses.

The EPA proposed the rule in April in an effort to prevent smaller bodies of water from polluting larger water sources. Under the rule, streams that flow into a regulated body of water would fall under the agency's jurisdiction.

Green groups have praised the rule as a way to ensure clean water around the country, but farmers complain it would be an added expense that hurts their bottom line.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman applauded the SBA's letter, saying the proposed regulation would be too much of a burden.

"The SBA’s frankness may surprise some, but it does not surprise us. The EPA has been heedless and cavalier in its disregard for the American farmers who would be most affected by this unworkable proposal," Stallman said.

The EPA defended its proposal, with spokeswoman Liz Purchia emphasizing in a statement that the rule "is a definition and creates no new requirements for small businesses or any others," but only seeks to clarify existing authority.

"Clean water is just as much about healthy economies as it is about healthy people. Our proposal will ensure that the thousands of businesses across the country, ranging from hunting and fishing to the high tech sector, continue to have access to clean water that they depend on," Purchia said.