The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined by several of its local Minnesota affiliates and a Minnesota builders group, has criticized U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar for her vote against a bill that would have forced the government to rewrite new water pollution control rules.
The rules extend federal oversight to remote ditches, streams and wetlands that feed the country's navigable waters. The chamber led a multi-industry coalition that sent a letter to Klobuchar and 10 other senators who helped block the rewrite legislation co-sponsored by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.
In an e-mail sent to reporters, the chamber and others accused the senators of "classic Washington doublespeak" by opposing the Heitkamp bill on the same day that they signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to "address legitimate issues that have been raised" about the rules.
The chamber's move is meant to pressure Klobuchar and others to change their votes "when the Senate returns to this matter again in the coming weeks." But in response to the chamber's criticism, Klobuchar issued a statement that said legal challenges to the rules need to play out.
“As pointed out in our letter, a federal court has recently issued a nationwide stay of the rule which means it is not taking effect while court proceedings are pending," Klobuchar said. "In addition to allowing time for those legal issues to be resolved, we are seeking clarification of a number of issues relating to the rule. While the EPA, at my request as well as others, has already made some improvements to the final rule, there is still confusion about how the rule will be implemented. That is why I recently sought answers from the EPA on questions relating to the rule and I will continue to do so to ensure that any final rule provides consistency and clear guidance for landowners and communities. I believe that allowing the legal issues to be resolved as well as seeking clear guidance about the rule is a better course of action than legislation at this time.”
Agricultural and development interests oppose the rules as "overregulation" that could undermine the use of private property. Tourism and environmental advocates generally support the rules in an effort to protect the quality of lakes, rivers and creeks.