Thirty-five Democrats joined 227 Republicans in approving a bill (H.R. 5078) to block an EPA/Corps proposal to define "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. The final vote was 262-152.
One Republican, Chris Smith of New Jersey, voted against the bill, which will give its supporters the ability to claim in their re-election campaigns that they are looking out for farmers and others who say the proposed regulation would hurt them economically. A similar bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has 38 co-sponsors.
Many of the Democrats backing the bill are not normally considered environmentalists, but some, like Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), are usually found on the green side of such issues. Farr has a lifetime 95 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters.
Adam Russell, spokesman for the congressman, said in an email that Farr "is a strong supporter of good environmental policy and smart environmental regulations. His vote on this bill was an attempt to compel competing interests to find a middle ground on a long standing dispute. That matter has been deadlocked for years. A vote on this bill was the only way to advance the issue so the two rival camps would have a legislative vehicle to act upon and move toward consensuses. Regulations that satisfy only one camp and a bill that satisfies only another is not the answer. We have to move to the middle."
Specifically, the legislation prohibits either agency from "developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering, or enforcing
(i) the proposed rule described in the notice of proposed rule published in the Federal Register entitled `Definition of `Waters of the United States' Under the Clean Water Act' (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(ii) the proposed guidance submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review under Executive Order 12866, entitled `Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected By the Clean Water Act' and dated February 17, 2012 (referred to as `Clean Water Protection Guidance', Regulatory Identifier Number (RIN) 2040-ZA11, received February 21, 2012); or
(B) using the proposed rule or proposed guidance described in subparagraph (A), any successor document, or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.)."