On May 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1732) by a vote of 261-155. To see how your member voted, click here.
H.R. 1732 requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to withdraw the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule within 30 days and restart the rule-making process. The bill also requires the agencies to consult and collaborate with state and local governments on the Waters of the U.S. rule development process. The agencies are required to document the interactions, including those areas where consensus was reached and not reached, and submit a final report to Congress.
In April 2014, the EPA and the Corps jointly released a new proposed rule that would amend the definition of Waters of the U.S. within the Clean Water Act and dramatically expand the range of public safety infrastructure that falls under federal permitting authority. According to NACo, the rule is likely to be finalized within the next month or so.
At the end of April, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) was introduced in the Senate. This bill, which is similar to H.R. 1732, would also stop and restart the rule-making process and require the agencies to work more closely with state and local governments in a rule rewrite. S. 1140 contains a list of principals the agencies should consider when rewriting the rule including types of water features that can be jurisdictional or exempt under the proposal. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on the bill on May 18.
The House’s FY 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill also targets the Waters of the U.S. rule by prohibiting any Corps funding to be used for developing, implementing and administrating the proposed rule. The House’s FY 2016 Interior appropriations bill is expected to contact similar restrictions on EPA funding.
In April, the White House issued a veto threat for H.R. 1732. In its Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), the White House stated that they “strongly oppose” and would veto the bill if it was passed by the House and Senate, arguing that it would decrease the Administration’s ability to protect water sources and create uncertainty for stakeholders.
NACo, along with other national organizations representing local governments, signed on to a letter sent to the House Majority and Minority leaders in support of H.R. 1732. To view the letter click here.