With little Democratic support, the House passed a spending bill that would block the Obama administration from implementing its Clean Water Act rule in fiscal 2016. The rule, which is in final review at the Office of Management Budget, would re-define what streams, ditches, ponds and wetlands are regulated under the anti-pollution law known as “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Mike Simpson, R-ID, argued that the rule would “expand federal jurisdiction far beyond what was ever intended by the Clean Water Act. The provision in the Energy and Water bill does not weaken the Clean Water Act, it stops the administration from expanding federal jurisdiction.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the House action sends a strong message to the EPA and the White House, “Furthermore, it was refreshing to see members of Congress order regulators back to the drawing board, with an admonition to listen to the very real concerns of people who would have their farm fields and ditches regulated in the same manner as navigable streams.” He added that the rule was never really about protecting water, “It was more about regulating land than it ever was about protecting valuable water resources. Farmers and ranchers know all about the importance of protecting water, and they will continue to put that belief into practice.”
During the floor debate, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway said, “This rule, in its current form, is a massive overreach of EPA’s authority and will impact nearly every farmer and rancher in America. It gives EPA the ability to regulate essentially any body of water they want, including farm ponds and even ditches that are dry for most of the year. The EPA’s defense of this rule is that it provides clarity to producers regarding what is and is not regulated, but in reality, this rule will allow nearly every body of water in the United States to be controlled by federal regulators.”
Ten Democrats voted for the bill (HR 2028), which passed, 240-177, well short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to overcome a threatened Presidential veto. Seven Republicans voted against the measure.