WASHINGTON, April 29, 2015 – House Republicans have taken the lead in moving legislation to stop the Obama administration from implementing its rule to redefine what streams, ditches, ponds and other features are regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA) as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).
But the action will soon shift to the Senate. The chairmen of the Agriculture and the Environment and Public Workers committees, Pat Roberts and Jim Inhofe, respectively, plan to kill the rule. Their bill, which will move through Inhofe’s EPW committee, will be similar to a House bill (HR 1732) that the House could vote on as soon as Friday.
Those bills are unlikely to become law because a presidential veto is virtually guaranteed – but they do allow Republicans to score political points and test support for the rule.
The House, meanwhile, will start debating a fiscal 2016 Energy and Water appropriations bill as early as Wednesday that includes a provision to block the administration from enforcing the new definition. The Interior-Environment spending bill hasn’t been drafted yet but it’s likely to include a similar provision. The Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to include similar provisions in its versions of those spending bills.
Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee argued that the WOTUS rider could draw a veto of the Energy and Water bill. But Inhofe said the concerns that farmers have with the WOTUS rule will put Democrats on the spot.
“When they (farmers) say this is our No. 1 concern that’s going to be bring a lot of Democrats to the table I think,” Inhofe told Agri-Pulse.
The White House has threatened a veto of the Energy and Water bill, specifically citing the WOTUS issue as well as funding levels for energy programs. The WOTUS provision “would disrupt the administration's current efforts to clarify the scope of CWA, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance,” according to the statement of administration policy.
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