By Sarah Everhart
Last Wednesday, June 10th, members of the House and Senate took steps to try and stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) or Clean Water Rule. As we previously posted, on May 27, 2015 the EPA finalized the Clean Water Rule and claimed that the Rule would not negatively affect farmers. Unfortunately, many members of the agriculture community, including but not limited to the American Farm Bureau, feel that the finalized Clean Water Rule will have a detrimental effect on agriculture and allow the EPA.
The first Congressional step towards stopping the bill was back in May with the passage of the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act (HR 1732) by the House of Representatives. Last week, the House Subcommittee that funds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Interior (DOI) passed its fiscal year (FY) 2016 spending bill. Through the Bill, the House voted to cut EPA funding and included a “policy rider” to stop EPA from administering the Clean Water Rule as written. The bill provides a total of $30.17 billion, which is $246 million less than current funding levels and $3 billion less than the President’s FY 2016 budget request. For EPA, the bill cuts $718 million, or 9 percent, relative to current funding levels. Although the WOTUS provision and others may have some bipartisan support, Democrats in the Senate are threatening to filibuster all of the fiscal 2016 bills unless Republicans agree to increase spending.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, last Wednesday, advanced the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S 1140), which would send the Clean Water Rule back to the EPA and require the agency to consult directly with states and those affected by the proposed rule, like local farmers and ranchers. We previously posted about the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. The Act currently awaits action on the Senate Floor.
However, given his previous strong support, it is highly likely that the President will veto any bill meant to stop the Clean Water Rule and it will take 67 votes to overcome a presidential veto. Although the attempts to stop the Rule have received some bi-partisan support, it has been a mainly republican effort. Therefore, many democrats would need to vote to override a veto in order to ensure the success of a congressional attempt to stop the WOTUS/Clean Water Rule.
For all previous posts on WOTUS, use the search by content tag feature of this blog and type in keyword- wotus.