Monday, November 30, 2015

Lobbyists want to use Syrian refugee crisis to block WOTUS, according to taped strategy session

Lobbyists want to use the Syrian refugee crisis to block the Environmental Protection Agency's Water of the U.S. rule, according to a leaked conference call, Lee Fang reports for The Intercept. During the conference call, "lobbyists representing a number of high-polluting industries agreed that the battle between Congress and President Obama on refugee policy will give them the cover they need to attach a legislative rider to the omnibus budget bill that rolls back newly expanded clean water regulation."

"Attaching a rider blocking WOTUS to the omnibus was potentially going to attract a lot of attention. Until now," Fang writes. "Now, lawmakers are expected to attach a provision to the omnibus bill to block Syrian refugee resettlement—a move that is bound to become the focus of any government shutdown confrontation between Congress and the White House."

"The call was hosted by the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for major electric utility companies," Fang writes. "Participants in the call included senior officials and lobbyists from some of the largest trade associations in Washington, including the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the American Forest and Paper Association, the National Association of Home Builders and the American Farm Bureau. The total attendance list for the call, however, is not clear given that some participants did not identify themselves or only identified themselves by first name."

Attendees at the conference call deny talking about Syrian refugees, Fang writes. Liz Thompson, director of media relations with the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement, "The Syrian crisis has absolutely no bearing on our discussions. With only two weeks left in the legislative calendar, the purpose of the call was to have an open discussion on the options available to us, including possibly adding a rider in the final omnibus appropriations bill." Other groups refused to comment.

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