Representative Long Misses the Boat on Clean Water
Heather B. Navarro, Executive Director
Representative Billy Long’s letter of May 16th regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule to protect clean water is a flood of misinformation. The proposed Clean Water Protection Rule is a joint effort by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect our water – the water that 1 in 3 Americans depends on for drinking. Normal farming and ranching practices do not require permits and will not under this rule. Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 and the State of Missouri has been delegated the responsibility to approve and enforce regulations that protect water quality for a variety of uses including drinking, playing, and wildlife habitat. Over the past 40 years, there has been confusion about how to implement these regulations. The proposed rule seeks to clear up these inconsistencies for the benefit of everyone.
Confusion keeps the lawyers employed but does not protect public health. The new rule will address pollution by better defining which waters are protected under the Act and clarifying that small streams and wetlands are important to maintaining water quality. Big rivers, after all, are a collection of smaller streams.
This rule will not bring the federal government marching onto family farms. However, it will ensure that we have clean water to feed livestock and grow our crops. This rule keeps all of the previous exemptions for farming practices and even adds additional exemptions.
Throwing around the term “land and water grab” is a fear tactic that fails the public interest. The rule gives no authority to the EPA to take or regulate land or land use. The Clean Water Act regulates only the dumping of pollutants into water bodies. Spreading such misinformation hurts Missouri landowners and farmers by depriving them of accurate information and protections for soil and water health.
Since 1972, Missouri has only protected a little over half of its waters with water quality standards, making Rep. Long’s fear of the “all-powerful EPA” utterly inconsistent with the reality of water protection.
Missourians are best served by healthy lands and waters that are the bedrock of Ozark communities and economies. Our farms, our recreational activities, and our children all depend on clean water. I agree with Rep. Long that those who care for the land know best how to protect it, and that is why the EPA and the Corps held over 400 public meetings and received over one million comments on the proposed rule. It is because of the concerns of the agricultural and development communities that this rule does not do what Rep. Long says it does. The bill that Rep. Long supported and the Senate is set to vote on soon would undermine the democratic process by asking the EPA and the Corps to redo over a year’s worth of careful analysis and public participation at taxpayer expense. It seems Rep. Long is more interested in creating a bureaucratic backlog than he is in promoting clean water for his constituents.