GOP subpoenas Obama regulatory officials on water rule

GOP subpoenas Obama regulatory officials on water rule
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House Republicans moved Tuesday to force the Obama administration to disclose certain documents related to the development of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) major water jurisdiction rule.

The House Oversight Committee sent a subpoena on the rule to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is responsible for reviewing all major federal regulations before they are issued.

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Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzTop Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report Former GOP lawmaker on death of 7-year-old migrant girl: Message should be ‘don't make this journey, it will kill you' MORE (R-Utah) alleged in his subpoena that OIRA and its chief, Howard Shelanski, are illegally withholding from Congress documents that lawmakers have requested since a March hearing.

The EPA made the highly controversial rule final in May, asserting federal control for pollution purposes over minor waterways like wetlands and streams. Republicans charge that it gives the EPA power over the vast majority of land in the United States.

The panel did not publicly release the subpoena it sent.

“Congress and the American people have a right to understand how rules are developed,” Chaffetz said in a statement about the action.

“Despite many efforts by this Committee to work with OIRA to obtain relevant documents for the Committee’s oversight efforts,  Administrator Shelanski has refused to comply with our requests. Therefore, issuing a subpoena became the necessary next step.”

At a March hearing, Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the panel's government operations subcommittee, pressed Shelanski to disclose all communications between the agency and the EPA on the rule. But Shelanski declined to hand over staff-level communications within his agency, saying that they are part of a “deliberative process” and Congress is not entitled to that information.

Meadows and Chaffetz have since repeatedly asked for that information, and Shelanski and his staff have refused, the committee said.

On the Senate side of Capitol Hill Tuesday, lawmakers sought other information from the Obama administration on the water rule.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked the EPA to send the committee its legal justification for the regulation.

“I have been waiting for over four months for a legal justification of EPA’s redefinition of ‘waters of the United States,' ” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who chairs the subpanel with water oversight and signed onto Inhofe’s letter, said in a statement.

“Having reviewed the final rule, the reason for the delay is apparent — the final rule cannot be justified,” he said.

The House has passed a bill to overturn the water rule, and the Senate is working on a bill to for the EPA to go back to the drawing board on it.

Separately, more than two dozen states and numerous business groups have filed lawsuits challenging the rule.