The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a resolution Tuesday to void the Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule, scheduled to go into effect March 20.
Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer, R-N.C., introduced the resolution earlier this month to use the Congressional Review Act to get rid of the rule.
Senate Republicans introduced identical wording but have taken no action yet.
At a hearing earlier this month, Republicans said the Biden administration should wait to implement the rule until the Supreme Court rules in the Sackett case. That decision is likely to have a bearing on the rule's implementation, if not its specific wording.
Rouzer called the vote, a 30-22 decision, one of the most important to be cast during this Congress. Republicans and most farm groups have argued the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule made it easier for landowners to determine whether they have jurisdictional wetlands or other waters on their property.
Rouzer said the new rule would allow federal officials to determine for themselves what is regulated and could prompt more lawsuits targeting farmers.
Rep. John Duarte, R-Calif., offered his strong support for the resolution, sharing his experience as a farmer who was prosecuted under the Clean Water Act. Duarte settled the case in 2017 for $1.1 million after he was found liable for violating the CWA by plowing grazing land to put it back into wheat production, as it had been decades before.
Duarte said the Biden rule will “limit the ability of American farmers to switch cropping systems and respond to markets, as they currently can.” He added it will exacerbate inflation and “effectively remove millions of acres of viable farmland from the food production system.”
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said if Republicans are seeking certainty and clarity, the resolution was the “wrong way to get there."
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The CRA “is a blunt instrument,” he said, because it freezes the field for not only the Biden administration but any administration to do any regulation that is substantially similar on the subject.
“If the Supreme Court issues a new standard in this case that it’s taken review, as it did in the Rapanos case, we’re stuck with that,” Huffman said. “Future administrations would be unable to issue implementing regulations. Future administrations would be unable to clarify ambiguities. They’d be unable to fix errors that the Supreme Court might make in its infinite wisdom.”
Ranking member Rick Larsen, D-Wash., also said the resolution will not provide clarity or bring back the 2020 NWPR adopted by the previous administration “because that effort was rightly rejected last year by the federal district court” and resulted in reinstatement of the decades-old Reagan-era regulations as interpreted by the Bush administration.
Larsen added the resolution undermines the ability of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection to respond to any changes SCOTUS may make in Sackett.
If approved by the full House and the Senate, the resolution would need a two-thirds vote to overturn a likely Biden veto.
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