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White House Threatens to Veto Spending Bill Over Anti-CWR Rider

The White House said President Obama would veto a $35.4 billion spending bill if it reaches his desk in its current form, listing a variety of reasons for doing so, but with vitriol over an attempt by House Republicans to prevent the administration from expanding the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Meanwhile, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told NGI’s Shale Daily that the House will begin debate tonight on HR 2028 -- also known as the FY2016 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill -- with an open amendment process that should continue into Thursday. A final vote could come Friday.

In a statement of administration policy on Tuesday, the White House said if Obama were presented with HR 2028 in its current form, his senior advisers would recommend a veto.

"The president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto HR 2028 and any other legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework, which blocks the investments needed for our economy to compete in the future," the White House said. "The administration looks forward to working with the Congress to reverse sequestration for defense and nondefense priorities and offset the cost with commonsense spending and tax expenditure cuts, as members of Congress from both parties have urged."

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee declined to remove a rider the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee attached to HR 2028. Specifically, Section 105 would prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from attempting to "develop, adopt, implement, administer or enforce any change to the regulations and guidance in effect on Oct. 1, 2012, pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act..." (see Shale DailyApril 23April 15).

"The administration believes that the CWA riders in the bill undermine efforts to protect America's clean water resources, which are critical to American families and businesses," the White House said. "The administration strongly objects to Section 105 of the bill in particular, which 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."

Republicans and some industry backers believe efforts by USACE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt the new Clean Water Rule (CWR) amount to an overreach by the federal government, and claim it would negatively impact domestic oil and gas production, increase permitting delays for wells and increase drilling costs.

The rule is currently under review by the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), with final authorization expected later this spring (see Shale DailyApril 7).

,The appropriations bill, one of an all-important series of bills to fund the federal government, funds USACE and also the Department of Interior, Department of Energy and independent agencies.

Republicans in Congress are also attempting to stop the CWR from taking effect with a separate bill. Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a standalone bill -- HR 1732, also known as the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act -- which would stop CWR outright.

Last year, EPA and USACE said Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 had created confusion over how the CWA should protect streams and wetlands (see Daily GPIMarch 26, 2014). The agencies said that confusion made it necessary to pen the CWR.

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