WASHINGTON – President Obama on Tuesday vetoed a congressional resolution that would have overturned federal regulations on clean water.
The Waters of the United States rule, adopted by the Obama administration in 2014, expands the definition of waters subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.
That rule has been opposed by agriculture groups across the United States. Last March, a group of more than 50 Ohio Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington D.C. and met at the EPA offices to raise their objections to the rule.
Farmers objected because they believe the rule will allow the EPA to fine and penalize them over water in ditches and seasonal ponds on their land, and expands the definition of “waterways” in ways that might force farmers to make significant drainage changes in their fields.
Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau, said Wednesday that the president’s veto was disappointing, but not surprising.
“We believe that U.S. EPA is overreaching its authority. Clearly, Congress agrees and we appreciate Rep. Bob Gibbs’s efforts on this issue. We’ll continue to offer our support to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in his legal efforts to stop EPA’s wrong-minded actions,” Fisher said.
Last June, DeWine filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA over the federal government’s controversial new regulations defining “waters of the United States,” which were published in the Federal Register. DeWine, who was joined in the lawsuit by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Columbus. Ohio and Michigan were among 27 states to sue the EPA over this regulation.
“This rule clearly violates both the language and the spirit of the Clean Water Act, which recognizes the rights of states to serve as trustees of their natural resources,” said DeWine when the suit was filed. “This is yet another example of the Obama administration overreaching its authority and unilaterally attempting to concentrate power in the hands of federal bureaucrats.”
But Obama, in his veto message to Congress, said, “Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable. Pollution from upstream sources ends up in the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters near which most Americans live and on which they depend for their drinking water, recreation, and economic development,” he said, in wire reports.
Congressional Republicans tried to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the regulation. But they’re short of the two-thirds vote necessary in each chamber to overturn the veto. It passed 53 to 44 in the Senate and 253 to 166 in the House.
The sponsor of the resolution, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she would continue to look for ways to undermine the rule.
“We all want clean water,” Ernst said in a statement. “This rule is not about clean water. Rather, it is about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land.”
National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling issued a statement Wednesday saying his group was disappointed in the veto.
“We are disappointed … in light of the recent GAO report that stated EPA engaged in ‘covert propaganda’ in an effort to sell the American public on this rule. This administration continues to ignore the will of Congress and the significant impact this will have on our country’s farmers at a time when they cannot afford more regulatory confusion and red tape.
“This resolution would have given us the opportunity to work together on a better rule we can all support. Instead, the future of WOTUS remains in the hands of the courts — which may takes months, if not years, and comes at a considerable cost,” he said.
However, Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, had a far different perspective.
“Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, polluters and their allies in Congress failed to undermine protections for water bodies that American families rely on for fishing, swimming, and drinking water. We are enormously grateful for the administration’s work to develop and defend the Clean Water Rule from attacks that would weaken safeguards for clean water,” Suh said Wednesday.
Suh said the Clean Water Rule, issued last year by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, restores protection under the Clean Water Act to lakes, streams and wetlands that help prevent flooding, filter pollution and supply one in three Americans with safe drinking water. The vetoed legislation — a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act — would have blocked the rule and rolled back those protections.