Senate passes bill to block EPA’s controversial clean water rule

Updated Nov 7, 2015

The U.S. Senate has voted to block the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule, according to The Hill.

However, the vote doesn’t mean those in the construction and aggregates industries who opposed the rule can rest easily quite yet. The bill was blocked with a Congressional Review Act resolution, which passed 53-44. The CRA method means the Republicans didn’t have to worry about a filibuster, but the bill still has to go to President Barack Obama’s desk.

And the White House said on Tuesday that it would veto the bill. But for the for the supporters of the bill—all but one Senate Republican and three Democrats—the passage puts the onus back on the President.

“My legislation is the necessary next step in pushing back against this blatant power grab by the EPA,” bill sponsor Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said. â€śWe will send this to the president, where he will be forced to decide between the livelihood of our rural communities nationwide and his unchecked federal agency.”

Since the EPA’s new clean water rule was announced, many Republican lawmakers, as well as those in the aggregate and construction industries, decried it as a federal government grab for more power. While the rule is meant to solidify the EPA’s authority over small bodies of water such as ponds and streams, opponents have argued that the Waters of the U.S. rule would give the agency power over ditches and puddles.

A Senate committee passed a bill in June that would throw out the rule and send the EPA back to the drawing board. The bill would lay out guidelines for the EPA to rewrite the rule. The Senate bill followed a similar one from the House of Representatives back in May just after the WOTUS rule was officially finalized.

But the White House has said the rule was put through an “extensive public engagement process” to determine what was needed. The rule, according to the executive supporters, keeps Americans healthy by keeping water clean.

“The agencies’ rulemaking, grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court,” White House officials wrote in a Statement of Administration Policy. “If enacted, (the Senate bill) would nullify years of work and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water. … It would sow confusion and invite conflict at a time when our communities and businesses need clarity and certainty around clean water regulation.”

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However, the Republican supporters of the Senate bill and those long advocating for the EPA to come up with a better solution, have said the WOTUS regulations would only hurt Americans and American businesses.

“Most Democrats chose an ideological power grab over sensible clean water rules yesterday,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said. â€śThis regulation feels a lot like the latest in a sustained Obama administration regulatory assault on their families. Well, the Senate is going to pursue another avenue today to protect the middle class from this unfair regulatory attack.”