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What's next for water rule?

Jacqui Fatka

February 8, 2016

3 Min Read
What's next for water rule?

JUST one day after the President vetoed a resolution of disapproval for the Environmental Protection Agency's "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule, the Senate attempted to override the veto. However, Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) successfully instituted a filibuster, which brought about its demise.

The opposition was 14 votes shy of the two-thirds needed for an override when they passed the resolution under special Congressional Review Act procedures in November, but many had hoped that some Democrats would change their vote this time. Not so: The final vote was 52-40.

A resolution of disapproval is a legislative procedure used to try to overturn regulations and rules put forth by the executive branch. The Senate voted 53-44 on Nov. 4, 2015, and the House voted 253-166 on Jan. 6, 2016, in support of the resolution.

"The Administration has tried to spin WOTUS as some 'clean water measure,' but a bipartisan majority of Congress understands it's really a federal power grab clumsily masquerading as one," Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. He added that President Barack Obama "thinks clean water rules should be based on Washington politics, not a scientific and truly collaborative process."

In his floor speech, Reid took aim at agriculture, saying a special interest group has raised money on the "fallacious information." Because agriculture is exempt from the WOTUS regulations, he added that "anyone saying this is horrible for agriculture is simply wrong. Under the specific language of the legislation, agriculture is exempted."

Lawsuits continue. The National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. and the Public Lands Council filed a lawsuit in the southern district court in Texas on July 2, 2015. That litigation will continue. While the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals considers jurisdiction, a temporary nationwide stay on implementation of the WOTUS rule remains in effect. More than 32 state attorneys general have filed in other courts as well.

National Corn Growers Assn. president Chip Bowling expressed disappointment in the presidential veto, especially in light of a report finding that EPA engaged in "covert propaganda" in an effort to sell the American public on the water rule.

"This resolution would have given us the opportunity to work together on a better rule we can all support. Instead, the future of WOTUS remains in the hands of the courts, which may takes months — if not years — and comes at a considerable cost," Bowling said.

Investigation requested. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) formally requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate whether EPA officials "knowingly and willfully violated and are continuing to knowingly and willfully violate" federal law in the covert propaganda campaign to promote the WOTUS rule.

"Something is tremendously wrong when a federal agency thinks it can break the law and illegally spend taxpayer dollars, but that is the situation we have right now with EPA and their efforts to fool hardworking Americans about their (WOTUS) rule," Inhofe said. "EPA must be held accountable, and I look forward to hearing what (DOJ) finds in their investigation."

Sasse added, "EPA thinks it can stonewall all it wants, but no bureaucracy is above the law. Despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office found that they broke federal law by running a covert propaganda campaign to support their sweeping WOTUS rule, the EPA has doubled down on their lawlessness. It's time for (DOJ) to investigate."

House hearing. On Feb. 11, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be called to testify before the House Agriculture Committee to explain her agency's decisions and discuss with members of Congress how they might work together to ensure that future EPA actions do not harm U.S. agriculture.

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. (EST) and can be viewed live at http://agriculture.house.gov.

Volume:88 Issue:02

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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