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Obama Vetoes Attempt to Block Controversial Clean Water Rule

President Obama vetoed a Congressional resolution disapproving of his administration's plan to rewrite the controversial Clean Water Rule (CWR) on Tuesday.

The resolution, SJ Res. 22, took issue with 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 DailyMay 27, 2015).

"We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture and energy development," Obama said. "Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect these resources and safeguard public health.

"Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it."

The resolution passed the House of Representatives by a 253-166 vote on Jan. 13, and the Senate on a 53-44 vote last November (see Daily GPIJan. 13Nov. 5, 2015); it was sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

"We all want clean water; that is not disputable," Ernst told the Des Moines Register. "However, this rule is not about clean water. Rather, it is about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land."

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.

Despite passage by both chambers of Congress, it appears unlikely that there is sufficient support in the Senate to override the veto. On Thursday, the Senate rejected a motion to invoke cloture over the veto message, 52-40.

Last October, the Justice Department began asking federal district courts across the nation to halt proceedings against the CWR (see Shale DailyOct. 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 Daily, Oct. 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, 2015; Aug. 11, 2015).

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