Clean Water Rule survives challenge in Senate

A procedural vote to override President Obama’s veto of a controversial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) floundered on Thursday.

A federal rule to define which bodies of water fall under the Clean Water Rule was widened to include navigable rivers, lakes and streams which branch into waterways.

The language in the Clean Water Act was finalized in June 2015 and went into effect on August 28, 2015.

Following the Senate’s vote to nullify to rule, the House voted to overturn the measure earlier this year.  President Obama vetoed the bill on January 19, 2016.

Critics, including farmers and some businesses, attacked the EPA’s rule as an obsessive federal power grab which would jeopardize people’s livelihoods and require federal authorization for any transformation of land.

“We all want clean water. That is not disputable.  However, this rule is not about clean water. It is a regulatory power grab that harms our farmers, ranchers, small businesses, manufacturers, and homebuilders,” said Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).

Senate Democrats countered that the rule offers clarification in response to legal challenges.

“It does not pave new ground,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). “It is basically what the stakeholders and the public thought was the law before the Supreme Court cases, which added to the uncertainty.”

The override undertaking failed 52-40 with three Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Joe Manchin (WV), siding with the Republicans.  Susan Collins (ME) was the lone GOP Senate member to vote with Democrats.


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