The business-friendly Republicans may be in charge of Congress, but Bloomberg isn't buying the opposition to the Waters of the United States rule:
The signs of deteriorating water quality are particularly acute in agricultural areas. For example, the Des Moines, Iowa, water works is having trouble controlling the amount of nitrates in local drinking water. This pollutant exceeded permissible levels of 10 milligrams per liter in one of the utility's main water sources, according to a September letter from water works manager William G. Stowe to the Des Moines Register. Nitrates are especially toxic to infants and at that level can cause blue baby syndrome -- a form of oxygen starvation.Farmers couldn't choose worse people to partner with than idiot Republicans. If they aren't careful and don't get their shit together (literally, in the case of manure management), they will end up facing a serious regulatory burden. Situations like the algae incident in Toledo this summer make farmers look really bad. Being stupid about regulation makes them look even worse.
Des Moines's water system spent an additional $1 million in 2013 to filter out nitrates, Stowe wrote, and costs will inevitably rise. The reasons for the contamination are clear: Farms in Iowa and elsewhere can skirt regulations to control the runoff of noxious chemicals derived from fertilizers into rivers. As Stowe wrote:
The intensive corn-soybean cropping system that occupies much of our watersheds `requires' massive amounts of fertilizer applications and agricultural tile drainage to maximize yields. Application of unlimited manure from growing animal feeding operations and commercial fertilizer and the ease in transporting these pollutants to our rivers through drainage systems has significantly, and increasingly, degraded water quality.The new rules seek to address the loophole. They would ensure existing regulations apply to protected bodies of water, limiting how much pollution is allowed and establishing a permitting process so that industry would have clear guidelines to establish waste outflows.
Until industrial agriculture is no longer exempt from regulations needed to protect water quality, we will continue to see water quality degrade and our consumers will continue to pay.
Opponents seem to have forgotten that the EPA's proposed rules were initially sought by agricultural interests, real-estate developers and state and local governments as a way to clarify regulatory ambiguity, caused, in part, by a pair of Supreme Court rulings. Waters of the U.S. would use technical and scientific analysis to say where the Clean Water Act applies and where it doesn't, including rivers and streams where farms now discharge polluted runoff....
It's a shame that rather than seeking an honest discussion, some opponents are relying on a misinformation campaign that contains gross distortions and outright falsehoods. To cite a few:
-- Every ditch would be subject to EPA oversight, as would puddles on homeowners' driveways and schoolyard playgrounds.
-- The rules give the federal government control of all farming and real-estate development.
-- The enforcement of the rules would amount to the biggest land grab in U.S. history.
If you want to see a corrective to this hyperbole, the EPA has developed a page of rebuttals called "Ditch the Myth."
Regrettably, and perhaps predictably, the House of Representatives heard the plaints of industry. In September it passed the Waters of the U.S. Regulatory Overreach Protection Act -- the title is self-explanatory -- which would block the rules from formal adoption. The bill passed with almost all Republicans in favor and most Democrats opposed.