A bipartisan group of lawmakers is gearing up for an end-of-year showdown with the Environmental Protection Agency over its contentious clean water rules that they say encroach on the rights of states and private landowners.
Reps. Bill Shuster, R-Penn,, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chairman of the committee's water and environment subcommittee, urged House leadership Monday to use an end-of-year spending bill debate to include a provision that blocks the implementation of the EPA's Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule.
A letter sent Monday to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was co-signed by a group of 88 Democrats and Republicans urging him to support inclusion of the provision in a bill to fund the government next month. Government funding runs out Dec. 11.
"Republicans and Democrats agree that the cost and expansion of jurisdiction in the WOTUS rule will cause confusion and unnecessary burden on our economy," Gibbs said. "I strongly urge House leadership to include a backstop limitation of funds provision that prevents the EPA and Army Corps [of Engineers] from moving forward with this rule."
The letter was also sent to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.
The letter says the rule oversteps federal jurisdiction by making private landowners subject to federal enforcement actions if they don't comply with rules governing ditches and small water bodies that the EPA now defines as waterways under the far-reaching regulations.
The lawmakers note that various stand-alone bills have attempted to defund the rule, but were blocked in the Senate. They urge Ryan, Pelosi and House appropriators to use the spending bill as an opportunity to roll back the regulations and re-write them in line with Congress' concerns.
The letter notes that 90 plaintiffs, including numerous states, are suing the EPA over the rules, managing in October to convince a federal judge to stay the regulation until the court has time to decide on further actions.
"We urge you to recognize the substantial cost, confusion and regulatory burden this rule will have on the economy if this controversial rule is funded for fiscal year 2016," the letter reads. "We respectfully request you include this limitation of funds provision to stop the WOTUS rule from implementation."