Bill to block WOTUS rule passes House

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 1, 2015 - With little Democratic support, the House passed a spending bill that would block the Obama administration from implementing its Clean Water Act rule in fiscal 2016.

Ten Democrats voted for the Energy and Water appropriations bill (HR 2028), which passed, 240-177, well short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to overcome a threatened presidential veto. Seven Republicans voted against the measure.

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The rule, which is in final review at the Office of Management Budget, would re-define what streams, ditches, ponds and wetlands are regulated under the anti-pollution law as “waters of the United State” (WOTUS).

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., lost a voice vote to strip the WOTUS provision from the bill, which would fund the Army Corps of Engineers.

The chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, argued that the rule would “expand federal jurisdiction far beyond what was ever intended by the Clean Water Act. The provision in the Energy and Water bill does not weaken the Clean Water Act, it stops the administration from expanding federal jurisdiction.”

The White House threatened to veto the bill, citing both its spending levels as well as the WOTUS issue.

Also under a veto threat is a separate bill (HR 1732) that would kill the rule altogether and require the Corps and EPA to propose an alternative. The White House also has threatened a veto of that measure. A similar measure was introduced in the Senate this week. 

The appropriations bill passed Friday would spend $35.4 billion in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. That is $1.2 billion above fiscal 2015 and $633 million more than President Obama requested for 2016. However, the bill would slash his requested spending on renewable energy programs, among others.

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“From hobbling the Clean Water Act to limiting the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to even study fracking, House Speaker John Boehner is continuing his assault on the air we breathe and the water we drink,” said Lukas Ross of Friends of the Earth.

But House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said the bill was “good for the economy, good for our security, good for American businesses, and good for the American people.”

 


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