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November 9, 2015

Senate Effort To Roll Back EPA Waters Rule Falls Short

The U.S. Senate last week took up two pieces of legislation that took aim at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The chamber passed a resolution that expressed congressional disapproval of the rule, but doesn’t require any action by the EPA, on a 53-44 vote

Unfortunately, the chamber rejected a second, stronger, bill offered by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), that would have repealed the WOTUS rule and given the EPA guidelines to rewrite it. Sen. Barrasso’s legislation failed on a 57-41 procedural vote. (The bill needed 60 votes to move forward to a final vote.) 

The WOTUS rule creates a new definition of “waters of the United States” and, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), would allow the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to exert power “over a staggering range of man-made and isolated features, even those that are usually dry or too small to appear on a map.” The new EPA definitions are complex and vague, and often require complicated case-by-case determinations by the agencies, creating significant uncertainty for industry. Indeed, NAM has said, for manufacturers, the regulation subjects an almost limitless number of new areas to permitting uncertainty, causing additional construction costs, environmental modeling burdens and delays, and potentially exposing facilities to administrative actions and litigation. 

As Connecting the Dots reported previously, a federal judge has put this rule on hold while the courts determine the best venue for multiple legal challenges.