OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Debate boils over on EPA’s water rule

Welcome to the hump-day edition of OVERNIGHT REGULATION, The Hill’s daily rundown of the day’s top regulatory and enforcement news – and tomorrow’s biggest storylines from around government. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.

THE BIG STORY:

A CHILLY RECEPTION awaited top administration officials called upon Wednesday to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s contentious “Waters of the United States” rule before a House subcommittee.

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Deputy EPA Administrator Robert Perciasepe and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy sought to portray the rule as merely clarifying the extent of the agency’s authority over various bodies of water via the Clean Air Act.

But the hearing turned testy as Republicans seized on the proposed rule as a “dramatic expansion” of the hand of government and even Democrats voiced reservations about the rule: http://j.mp/1xJJ7KU

--Three key takeaways from the hearing:

1) Republicans are riled up about the proposal. The hearing featured a succession of GOP rants against the proposed rule. The loudest came from Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who angrily demanded that Perciasepe name a single state that supports the proposal.

“Give me one state! You have not one state!” Young shouted at the witness table

2) Democrats are not unified behind the EPA. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), top Democrat on the committee voiced serious reservations about the rule, saying EPA’s policies have led to distrust from within Congress and urged his colleagues to approach the rule with skepticism. Rahall, in the midst of a tough race, has been a vocal critic of the agency’s regulatory policies, so his remarks were not unexpected. But other Dems, including Rep. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.) also said they have concerns about the rule’s impact on businesses.

3) The administration is making an economic case for the proposal. In his testimony, Perciasepe said that the rule’s benefits could exceed half a billion dollars, with maximum estimated costs topping out at just over half of that figure.

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY:

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the White House. Among the items on the docket: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact with major implications for a host of regulatory issues, from finance to food safety.

The rest of the federal apparatus remains in full swing, with the House and Senate each open for business, although the former is likely to be consumed with the Majority Leader sweepstakes, to be decided exactly one week later: http://j.mp/1oP5IRW

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will deliver the keynote address at the U.S. Energy Association’s 2014 Energy Efficiency Forum. She’ll use the speech to tout the agency’s proposed carbon standards:http://j.mp/1hPrTag

The House Veterans Affairs Committee examines the “bureaucratic barriers” to care for veterans in the wake of the scandal that led to the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinsekihttp://j.mp/1hPr818

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce enters day two of its annual Small Business Summit, which will feature speeches from U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman, political analyst Charlie Cook and Gen. Colin Powel (Ret.):http://j.mp/1llrNWR

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY:

The Obama administration plans to issue 232 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register.

-The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering new rules for mobile banking services. 

The CFPB says it will take a closer look at how mobile banking apps empower unbanked and underbanked people to take better control of their personal finances, but the agency also recognizes there may be customer service issues and privacy concerns that it needs to address.

The CFPB will issue a request for information Thursday as it considers whether and how to regulate the growing sector.

"For the economically vulnerable, mobile (banking) can enhance access to safer, more affordable products and services in ways that can improve their economic lives," the agency writes. http://j.mp/1ioPdqa

-The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will tighten the restrictions on its E-rate program, which offers financial assistance to schools and libraries to cover the costs of providing Internet access to students. http://j.mp/1lo7FDB

-The FCC will also begin collecting information from Inmate Calling Services about the calls prisoners make. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) signed off on the data collection plan earlier this month. http://j.mp/1hJDhnT

-The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not strengthen the regulations on certain medical devices that treat patients for insomnia, depression, and anxiety. The FDA had considered requiring cranial electrotherapy stimulators to go through the premarket approval process, but is dropping that plan. http://j.mp/1l9Lo7Y

-The FDA will also delay changes to a rule that would affect how the agency classifies medical devices. The agency will give interested parties until Sept. 22 to comment. http://j.mp/1q4WeUK

NEWS RIGHT NOW:

BUDGET BASHING: Obama’s pick to serve as the White House’s next OMB director appears likely to cruise to confirmation. But current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan had to endure some harsh words Wednesday from Republicans railing against the president over the $17 trillion national debt.

DATE SET: The first of what is likely to be a succession of House hearings on the EPA’s proposed regulations for existing power plants has been set for July 19: http://j.mp/1mJ82FL

CUT THE CHEESE: Congressional pressure is mounting for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to abandon new cheese aging regulations it is mulling. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and more than a dozen other lawmakers say they may cut the FDA's funding for this rule. http://j.mp/1oVeVGB

OUCH! The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking to prevent nursing home workers from contracting musculoskeletal disorders, such as muscle strains, low back pain, rotator cuff injuries, and tendinitis. OSHA is issuing new guidance that explains safe patient handling procedures that could help reduce or prevent these injuries. http://j.mp/1qv0R7U

GENDER GAP: A new study finds that women account for only 2.6 percent of construction jobs, due in large part to workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and gender stereotyping. There are more than 7 million men who work in the construction industry, but only 206,000 women, the study found. http://j.mp/UtUE1W

TRUCKING REGS: In the wake of the wreck that critically injured comedian Tracy MorganSen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is calling for more stringent regulations for big rig drivers: http://j.mp/1pIJLDI

BY THE NUMBERS:

$514 million:  the maximum projected annual benefits of the EPA’s “Waters of the United States proposal, per the EPA.

$278 million: the maximum projected costs of said rule.

0: The number of states that administration witnesses were able to cite Wednesday as being in favor of the draft regulation.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Regulations were certainly at the forefront over the last several years under Cantor. Given all of the attention Cantor has paid to regulations in the past, we will be losing his leadership there." – Sam Batkins of the conservative American Action Forum on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) primary defeat.

 

We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.