Panels set hearing on WOTUS, mull legislative action

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2015 - House and Senate committees have set a joint Feb. 4 hearing on the Obama administration's proposed Clean Water Act rule as lawmakers plan how to block it from taking effect.

Together we can feed the Bees" The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, R-Okla., used an organizational meeting Wednesday to announce the joint hearing with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He told Agri-Pulse that he would announce later what legislative action would be pursued. “Every farmer in America wants us to stop it. We're going to see what comes form the hearing. At that time we'll make a decision, and we'll actually announce what we want to do.”

The rule, which administration officials have said they hope to finalize this spring, would re-define what streams, ponds, ditches and other areas fall under the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction as “waters of the United States.” (WOTUS).

The House last fall voted 262-152 to approve a bill that would have killed the rule, but the legislation never went anywhere in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. Thirty-five House Democrats voted for the measure. An omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2015 killed a related interpretive rule that detailed agricultural exemptions to Section 404 permitting requirements, but left the WOTUS rule intact.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he is coordinating with Inhofe on the issue. 

Inhofe also said during Wednesday's meeting that the panel will look into how the administration has been administering the Endangered Species Act, but he didn't say whether the committee planned any legislation on the issue.

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