Congress targets “waters of the United States” rule; Obama veto next?

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and other conservation organizations cried foul this week as the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in what the groups call continuing efforts “to undermine clean water protections.”

The House took advantage of a rarely used legislative process known as the Congressional Review Act to attempt to kill the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule, which clarifies Clean Water Act jurisdiction over headwater streams and wetlands. The vote was 253-166 with 12 Democrats supporting.

The Senate used the same fast-track process to pass this joint resolution (S.J.Res.22) back in November, so the bill now goes to President Obama, who has said he’ll veto it.

Groups like TRCP are urging Obama to follow through on that threat.

“Once again, Congress has proven that they’re way out of touch with sportsmen on clean water,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Rather than sending trout and salmon spawning areas and waterfowl nesting habitat back into regulatory confusion, hunters and anglers want to see the Clean Water Rule implemented, so we can leave a legacy of healthy waterways for the next generation of sportsmen and women, while preserving existing assurances for farmers, ranchers, and foresters.”

Outdoor News has reported on this issue for nearly 15 years since a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Clean Water Act jurisdiction occurred in the early 2000s. The EPA maintains those rulings necessitated the regulations, because they left protections, previously covered under the Clean Water Act, unclear. Two administrations have wrestled with creating new rules ever since.

On Monday, Jan. 11, the TRCP sent Congress a letter opposing S.J. Res. 22 on behalf of eight hunting and fishing groups, including the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited.

The letter says “the Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America’s outdoor industry,” which, in the sportfishing sector alone, accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion in annual retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion a year.”

In a press release, TRCP said: “By passing this resolution, lawmakers are disregarding the views of nearly 900,000 Americans, who were vocal in their support of the Clean Water Rule during the public comment period, and 83 percent of hunters and anglers polled, who said they want the Clean Water Act to protect smaller streams and wetlands.”

Read “A Sportsman’s Tackle Box for Understanding the Clean Water Rule” and other info on the rule here.

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