This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) that would have allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to implement new clean water regulations for streams and wetlands. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Energy Department programs and the Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2012.
Specifically, the underlying energy and water development bill that Moran was trying to amend would prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing new clean water regulations for streams and wetlands that are not connected to navigable waterways (such as isolated wetlands on private property). Moran’s amendment would have eliminated that prohibition.
Moran urged support for his amendment: “The original idea was that you would define waters that are contiguous, that you can see on the surface, that you can navigate across from one state into another as falling under federal protection. The problem is that there are a lot of waters that part of the year may run under the ground but are still contiguous and supply water to navigable streams and to rivers that are absolutely important to our economy and to our environment. So which of those waters should EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] and the Corps of Engineers regulate? During part of the year, the water flows under the surface, but it's still there; it's still important. If we don't enable our federal agencies to clarify which waters are to be protected, many wetlands will be filled in, many habitats will be destroyed, many streams that run alongside mines will be filled with toxic material that will then subsequently run into rivers and water supplies that people need for their drinking water.”
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) opposed Moran’s amendment, and argued that an “element within American society that wants to regulate all water to the detriment of private property rights. They want to make a determination that if there is a stock water pond and a duck lands on it, we get control. If there's an independent stream, meaning it goes underground, and then occasionally when it rains too much and there is going to be moisture, we want control. This is what we're talking about in America today, overregulation. When we talk about jobs--where are the jobs--a lot of it is because of overregulation.”
The House rejected Moran’s amendment by a vote of 170-250. Voting “yea” were 161 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 9 Republicans. 227 Republicans and 23 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to implement new clean water regulations for streams and wetlands that were not protected by current law.