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Senate GOP seeks swift action against ‘ominous’ regulation

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today released a 38-page report accusing U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers of advancing “very broad claims of jurisdiction” in Clean Water Act disputes.  The report also warned that a recent Supreme Court win for landowners in a case about who can challenge certain decisions about water permits in court could become “moot” if Congress does not act to withdraw the Clean Water Rule.

The Obama administration’s rule, also known as Waters of the United States, defines which waterways and wetlands receive automatic protections under the Clean Water Act. In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the rule on hold nationwide while litigation plays out .  Republican members on the EPW Committee and foes of the rule have previously accused EPA and the corps of flouting the court’s order by asserting broad jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways.

The report argues that the agencies are taking a narrow view of exemptions for farming, highlighting several case studies of jurisdictional battles taking place across the country.

“The reach of federal authority claimed by EPA and the Corps is, in the words of Justice Kennedy, ‘ominous,'” the majority’s report says. “That ominous authority would be codified in the WOTUS rule. As a result, if that rule goes into effect, the hard-won right to challenge Corps jurisdictional determinations will become meaningless.”

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US Army Corps of Engineers Proposes New and Revised Nationwide Permits

Two new and fifty revised Nationwide Permits have been submitted by the US Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. The National Association of REALTORS® stated that “The two new permits authorize impacts related to the removal of low-head dams and construction and maintenance of living shorelines for shore erosion control. The permit revisions affect a variety of activities, including residential, commercial, and industrial development; flood control; storm water management; mining; and agriculture and aquaculture”.  Read more.

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FAA Rule Clears Commercial Drone Use for Take Off

On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released operational rules that now make it easier than ever to use drones commercially. The approved rules are set to take effect on August 1, 2016. The REALTORS® Land Institute continues to support the progress made by the FAA to facilitate the use of drones in the industry. RLI and NAR will continue to work towards increasing the possibilities of use for industry operators, including “beyond visual line of sight” flights commonly used by land professionals when filming/photographing large tracts of land. Read more.

Top 3 Takeaways for the FAA’s New Drone Rule

Top Takeaway: This Final Rule will lead to more predictability in the market for drone-based services. The rule will create a broader base of trained operators and service providers and make it easier for real estate professionals to utilize this new technology in their business.

  1. Education provision: The new rule clarifies that if the drone is for commercial purposes, the operator must be certified, but does not have to be a licensed pilot. A less burdensome new certification for ‘remote pilot in command’ authority will replace the need for a previously required pilot’s license. The certification test is administered at FAA testing centers and is knowledge-based only. The cost is about $150, and will takes around 20 hours of study time to prepare; the test itself is 3 hours long. Operators will still need to pass a background check performed by the TSA.
  2. Flight operations permitted: flights may be conducted during daylight hours, within visual line of sight, not directly over non-participants, altitude limit 400’, and 100 MPH max speed.
    • Provisions for flight over non-participants will be addressed in a future rule-making.
    • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  3. Almost all of the operational requirements can be waived, which leaves room for innovation and experimentation with the technology.

See a summary from the FAA.

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RLI Signs With NAR

The REALTORS® Land Institute has signed on to a letter in conjunction with the National Association of REALTORS® in an effort to support small business owners by preventing increased regulations and the compliance costs that come with them. Read the full letter.

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Supreme Court upholds landowner rights in Waters of the US Case

The Supreme Court’s ruling in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., set a precedent that landowners may challenge the Corps’ jurisdictional determination specifying that a piece of property contains a “water of the United States.” Read more.

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Why the “Waters of the U.S.” case matters

Farmers, some whose families have owned and managed their property for generations, are now facing difficulties managing their own land.  The government’s ability to claim a property falls under Waters of the US means the owner may be required to get a federal permit before they can do common tasks like plowing their own field. The looming U.S. Supreme Court decision on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. will have a big impact on the land owners’ rights regarding WOTUS. Read more.

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President Obama’s Administration Continues Its Quest to Limit the Ability to Defer Income Under IRC § 1031

The Obama Administration continues its efforts to limit the use of Tax Deferred 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges. In their 2017 budget proposal, the Obama proposed a one million dollar limit on both real and personal property exchanges. The REALTORS® Land Institute advocates strongly that these exchanges are a vital contributor to the entire real estate industry and the US economy as a whole. Read more.