Just a day after the U.S. Senate blocked the Federal Water Quality Protection Act to halt EPA and the Army Corps of Engineer’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, the same body passed S.J. Res. 22, a joint resolution of disapproval of WOTUS. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly and others couldn’t get to the 60 votes needed Tuesday, but the resolution hit the needed mark, according to Kyle Cline at Indiana Farm Bureau.
“The resolution is a congressional disapproval of the WOTUS rule,” he told HAT, “and that only had to pass by a simple majority due to Senate rules. That will hopefully give us some momentum and send a strong signal to congressional leaders and Senate leaders that look, there’s still a problem here. This is an issue and while we didn’t get the bill passed to withdraw the rule and really send it back to the drawing board, the issue remains and it’s something that needs to be dealt with and that our farmers need as well as anyone who works on the land in the United States.”
The joint resolution must now be passed by the House and signed by the President who has already issued a veto threat. But Cline says the number of votes secured Tuesday, the passage of the joint resolution Wednesday, and the earlier US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals blockage of WOTUS implementation, will combine to create some positive momentum.
“Hopefully all of that will give the cover and the momentum to the leadership to possibly attach a rider to the omnibus spending bill at the end of the year. So there might be a way for us to defund those efforts for the next year. Hopefully that may delay things further and we’ll get into the next presidential administration and maybe deal with it there. But we’ll see what happens with the courts as well.”
Cline was appreciative of the efforts by Sen. Donnelly to inject common sense into the WOTUS debate.
“He certainly did a lot of leg work early on and often,” Cline said. “The Senator had an integral part in that and in carrying that on the Democratic side and we just fell short a few votes. He really had a great effort to inject Hoosier common sense into a rule that is lacking much of that.”
In a statement, Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock added, “All Hoosiers, not just those involved in agriculture, should be extremely proud of the courageous stance Senator Joe Donnelly took on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday. Facing long odds and in spite of sometimes acrimonious testimony against his measure, Sen. Donnelly kept his promise to Indiana’s farmers by introducing S. 1140, a common sense approach to neutralizing EPA’s overzealous Waters of the U.S. rule.
“Indiana Farm Bureau expresses its sincere thanks to Sen. Donnelly for his leadership on this contentious issue and to both Senators Coats and Donnelly for their votes to send the flawed WOTUS rule back to the drawing board. Although the measure came just short of reaching the necessary 60 votes for passage, we are committed to continuing the fight to protect Hoosier farmers from increases in regulatory overreach by the federal government.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council stated their appreciation for the bi-partisan show of support in the Senate. NCBA President, Philip Ellis said the joint resolution passed by the Senate (53-44) could finally put this burdensome regulation to rest.
“America’s cattlemen and women are drowning in federal regulation that adds burdens, costs and uncertainty to our businesses,” said Ellis “The WOTUS regulation is the greatest overreach yet. If allowed to take effect, it would give EPA jurisdiction over millions of acres of state and private property. Without action by Congress and the President to withdraw this rule; producers, stakeholders and states will be forced to continue litigation, adding millions of dollars in expenses and years in delay.”
The joint resolution passed by the Senate was brought by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) under the Congressional Review Act. This resolution would order the EPA and Corps to withdraw the WOTUS rule and would prevent the agencies from further similar rulemaking.
Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Newburg, Maryland, said, “America’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about clean water, and we are committed to protecting it for future generations. But this rule is not based on science or law, does not clarify farmers’ responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and will not improve water quality.
“We supported S. 1140 because we believe the EPA, the Corps, farmers and other stakeholders must collaborate on a better rule we can all get behind. While that bill did not pass, we appreciate the Senate’s actions today, and we remain hopeful that cooperation and dialogue can win the day. We have been engaged with EPA from the beginning and our door remains open. Let’s work together on a better rule that will give farmers the certainty they need while protecting America’s water resources.”