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Obama vetoes GOP attempt to block water rule

President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by congressional Republicans to overturn his landmark regulation asserting federal power over small bodies of water.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, dubbed the Clean Water Rule or “waters of the United States,” would ensure that water used for drinking, recreation, economic development and other purposes is kept safe, Obama said in a message to Congress late Tuesday.

“We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture, and energy development,” Obama wrote in his veto message.

“Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it.”

The House passed the resolution last week under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers a streamlined process to disapprove of regulation, blocking it and any similar rules. The Senate passed it in November.

The EPA wrote the rule with the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it essential to clarify that small waterways like ponds, streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Obama said in his veto message that the rule responded to requests from Congress and industry, and is in line with Supreme Court rulings.

But the GOP made it a priority to block the rule. Republicans and business advocates say it extends federal reach over puddles, wet areas and other water and land that was never meant to have federal control.

Farmers, developers and other land users say that the rule would require federal permits for simple, everyday tasks like digging ditches and spraying pesticides.

The EPA is currently prohibited from enforcing the rule. A federal court blocked it last year to allow the court system to review whether it is legal.

It’s the second time Obama has vetoed a congressional attempt to overturn a major environmental rule in just over a month.

In December, he rejected the GOP’s resolution to stop his landmark climate rules for power plants.