After much back and forth, the Soil and Water Conservation Board announced on January 14th that they voted to suspend their hotly debated changes to stormwater regulations to permit an additional 30-day comment period. The stage was formally suspended on January 26, 2010 which means that the status will be stuck in suspension until a new round of comments opens from February 15 through March 17.
We reported on the both the initial regulations and later changes to the proposed regulations which eased some of their impacts on the home building industry. The Home Builders Association of Virginia indicates that they mobilized significant response and opposition to even the later round of regulations.
In addition to the underlying technical tug-of-war, there are two interesting political subtexts which may sweep this issue off the table. First, in the intervening time since the regulations were first proposed, the Republican former Attorney General, Bob McDonnell, has won the Governor’s race, Governor Tim Kaine has left office, and Governor McDonnell has been sworn in. The impact of the new Governor on these regulations is unknown at this point, but the suspension may be a significant indicator of future direction.
The import of state regulation may be swept away by federal intervention. The US Environmental Protection Agency has sought comments and then transmitted a second notice on specific stormwater management regulations. Chesapeake Bay run-off continues to generate active press and political reaction, so the states may ultimately be preempted by federal action in this arena.