Mixed rulings seen boosting WOTUS critics

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2015 - The mixed court rulings on the Obama administration's new Clean Water Act rule should motivate more Democrats to support repealing the measure or at least stalling its implementation, says Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

A federal judge last month blocked the administration from enforcing the rule in North Dakota and 12 other states but declined to extend his ruling to the remaining 37 states, citing conflicting decisions by other judges.

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The rule re-defines what wetlands, streams, ditches and other features are regulated under the law as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

“For the 13 states who have it stayed, they're actually in a good situation. Now, the clock obviously works in our favor, not against us,” said Hoeven, a leading opponent of the rule. . 

“For the 37 states that aren't party to the lawsuit, hopefully that will create some push to … get their senator or congressman on board with what we're trying to do” legislatively.

The House has passed a bill to kill the rule, and a similar measure (S 1140) is pending in the Senate. Meanwhile, appropriations bills in the House and Senate contain provisions that would block implementation of the rule during fiscal 2016, which starts Oct. 1. 

The Senate bill has three Democratic co-sponsors, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. 

Hoeven expressed optimism that the bill could attract enough Democratic support to get the 60 votes necessary to bring it to a vote in the Senate, but that would still leave it short of the 67 necessary to overcome a veto. 

Stopping the WOTUS rule is one of two top issues for the American Farm Bureau Federation, along with passing a bill to preempt state GMO labeling laws. 

“I do have empathy for the senators and their staff. … Those were two issues before they left town, and they were hearing about it all August and again when they come back to town,” said Dale Moore, AFBF's executive director of policy policy. 

The other 12 states where the administration can't enforce the WOTUS rule because of the court decision are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.

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