Wednesday, May 13, 2015

House Easily Passes Waters of the United States Legislation

On Tuesday (May 12), the House passed a bill that would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw a controversial proposed "Waters of the United States" (or "WOTUS") rule within 30 days, and then consult with state and local officials on how to address the Clean Water Act jurisdiction issue within three months. The “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act” (H.R. 1732) passed easily on a 261 – 155 roll call vote that was largely along party lines.  All Republicans voted for the bill’s passage (with seven not voting).  All but 24 Democrats voted against the bill (with nine not voting). Noteworthy Mississippi River state Democratic members voting for the bill included Reps. Cheri Bustos (IL), Jim Cooper (TN), Robin Kelly (IL), Collin Peterson (MN), Cedric Richmond (LA) and Tim Walz (MN).

That vote total for passage would not be enough to overcome a threatened White House veto, should this bill be passed by the Senate. However, its fate in the Senate is far from certain, since the Senate’s own WOTUS bill (S. 1140) is considerably different than the House measure, and Senate leaders may not wish to complicate debate on its bill by considering the House bill on its own merits.

Two amendments were offered to the House bill.   A Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) amendment was rejected on a 167 – 248 roll call vote. That amendment would have given the “Administration the ability to expand jurisdiction over waters that are currently under state jurisdiction. Specifically, this amendment allows the Administrator of the EPA and Secretary of the Army to implement a final rule expanding the definition of Waters of the United States at their own discretion.” The amendment also provided “policy provisions that the Secretary and Administrator are prohibited from including in a final rule.”  A second amendment offered by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI-5) was adopted by a voice vote. That amendment would create a two-year grace period for compliance with the WOTUS rule developed pursuant to the House bill, should that final rule impact State-issued permits under sections 402 or 404 of the Clean Water Act.

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