White House threatens to veto bill to kill EPA water rule

The Obama administration issued a veto threat Monday for a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from moving forward on a rule to redefine its jurisdiction over streams and ponds.

Citing the need to protect waterways from pollution and the rule’s scientific grounding, the White House said it “strongly opposes” the bill and advisers would recommend that President Obama veto it if it reaches his desk.

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“Clarifying the scope of the [Clean Water Act] helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy,” the White House wrote in a notice to House leaders.

Administration officials said the bill “would derail current efforts to clarify the scope of the CWA, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance.”

The rule was proposed in March to clarify which bodies of water require EPA permits for certain activities that could pollute them. It ran into immediate, strong opposition from Republicans and business leaders, especially in agriculture, calling it a massive land grab by the federal government.

The EPA, which is working on the rule along with the Army Corps of Engineers, has said those assertions are dead wrong. Officials have repeatedly said that the rule would not significantly expand the government’s authority, most recently in a series of questions and answers about the rule Monday.

But those actions fell largely on deaf ears. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the bill in July to kill the proposal.

The full House is likely to vote on the bill Tuesday.

The measure is unlikely to gain the support of a majority in the Senate. Only 30 senators, all Republican, signed on in June to a bill to block the rule.

“In the end, H.R. 5078 would sow more confusion and invite more conflict at a time when our 

communities and businesses need clarity and certainty around clean water regulation,” the White House wrote Monday.