On this World Water Day, AFS learned that a troubling policy rider related to the Clean Water Rule was removed from the Omnibus budget bill for Fiscal Year 2018. The rider would have allowed EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule without following the Administrative Procedures Act. That means the agencies could ignore public input in repealing the rule, or adopt a rule without any reasonable justification. The bill passed easily in the House and the Senate is currently working on the bill ahead of Friday’s deadline to beat a government shutdown.
There continues to be a concern that a policy rider in a Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that exempts the repeal of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedures Act might make its way to final passage of a Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill. Earlier this year, the CASS groups sent a letter to Senate Appropriators urging them “not to adopt a policy rider that would allow the federal government to exempt the administration’s proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedures Act. The repeal of Clean Water protections requires a meaningful opportunity for stakeholders to engage in the process to ensure the best available science is considered. At a minimum, the public should have the opportunity to comment on this critically important issue.” Unfortunately, it is possible that a policy rider could still make its way into law and the ability of the public to comment on the process and the ability of the rule to be challenged in court under the APA would be severely limited.
AFS believes that there should be no place in a funding bill for a policy rider that would allow the administration to avoid public comment as it takes steps to lift protections for our nation’s water that provide fish and wildlife habitat and deliver clean drinking water supplies.