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House Joins Senate in Blocking Controversial Clean Water Rule

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, along mostly partisan lines, joined their Senate colleagues on Wednesday in passing a resolution disapproving of the Obama administration's plan to rewrite the controversial Clean Water Rule (CWR).

SJ Res. 22 passed the House on a 253-166 vote. Twelve Democrats -- Reps. Jim Cooper (TN), Jim Costa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX), John Garamendi (CA), Gwen Graham (FL), Collin Peterson (MN), Kurt Schrader (OR), David Scott (GA), Terri Sewell (AL), Marc Veasey (TX), Filemon Vela Jr. (TX) and Tim Walz (MN) -- supported the resolution. One Republican, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, voted against it.

Although the resolution passed, it is unlikely to go anywhere without enough support in the Senate to override an expected presidential veto. The Senate passed the resolution, 53-44, last November (see Daily GPINov. 5, 2015); it was sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

At issue is how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) redefined what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS), clarifying what water features deserve protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposed regulation, enshrined in the CWR, was rolled out by EPA and USACE last May (see Shale Daily, May 27, 2015).

The oil and gas industry is opposed to the regulation because it claims the rule would stifle development, while Republicans deride it as an overreach by the federal government.

"The WOTUS rule is an unconstitutional power grab by the federal government which threatens the livelihood of producers and businesses across North Dakota," Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said Wednesday. "If President Obama is truly serious to living up to his commitment to cut needless government regulations and red tape, he should join with a bipartisan majority of the House and Senate and stop WOTUS by signing SJ Res. 22 into law."

Last October, the Justice Department began asking federal district courts across the nation to halt proceedings against the CWR (see Shale Daily, Oct. 14, 2015). The move was designed to give the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth District in Cincinnati more time to decide whether it has jurisdiction over a multitude of legal challenges to the rule. That court has so far blocked implementation of the CWR nationwide (see Shale DailyOct. 9, 2015).

Thirteen states, led by North Dakota, asked for and received a preliminary injunction against the rule last August, before the rule was to take effect (see Shale Daily, Aug. 28, 2015Aug. 11, 2015).

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