Just when I think it can’t get any worse, it does. I picked up the New York Times while traveling, Friday the 13th naturally, and read about the Trump administration’s repeal of the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS) under the 1972 Clean Water Act.
In that it was the previous administration’s major effort to protect streams, wetlands, and other waters, the action seemed as much simple retribution as reflex reaction against regulation of any sort. It continues our ongoing national environmental regression to reverse fifty years of progress in understanding and protecting our natural resources, with significant state and local implications.
This action, taken together with the steady diminishment of state regulation of corporate agriculture and current attempts to remove local health ordinance controls, dumbs down protection of Ozarks waters to the lowest common denominator. In an interview I called it as I see it: Our Lifeblood is at risk – our economy, our health, our legacy to children and grandchildren.
WHAT IT MEANS
In simplistic terms, the rollback will eliminate the EPA permitting process currently required for discharging potential pollutants into local streams and wetlands, putting everything from human usage to drinking water at enhanced risk.
WOTUS was not perfect, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Corporate agriculture and industry consider this a huge win, which should raise giant red flags for the rest of us.
Economic development in the Ozarks is keyed to clean water, tourism, and recreation. Protecting one is protecting the other. Unregulated expansion of corporate agriculture is consistent with neither in our corner of the state, hence the need for local controls.
One of those quoted in the Times article called it a “stake through the heart of federal water protection.”
For those of us who remember the days before federal engagement through the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, all under the Nixon Administration, this is a frightening prospect. Rivers burning and unbreathable air is not something we need to go back to.
Though this rollback extends beyond Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the philosophy is symbiotic. Deregulate at the national level. Deregulate at the state level.
Keep CAFO permitting with a state clean water commission board stacked with agricultural interests. Take away local protections as currently provided by county health ordinances. Throw the barn door wide open.
CAFO LAWSUIT UPDATE
As for our continuing legal efforts to overturn the Missouri Senate Bill (SB391) which will strip counties of their right to local control if it stands, the Temporary Restraining Order on implementing the new law was imposed in August, then lifted in early September just as several of us were scheduled to testify in court for preserving it. The judge’s apparent rationale was that no counties had been sued so there was no harm yet done. I’m not sure that I get it.
Whatever. The new key date is October 15, when the judge will hear petitions for dismissing our lawsuit to overturn SB391 from state government and agricultural interests. Our attorney believes our case is strong. There is certainly a lot riding on it.
No pretty pictures of Ozarks’ waters and float trips in this post. I’m too glum at the moment.
Coming next, Nov 1, 2019 – WATERS OUT WEST, AND LAWSUIT UPDATES
(I do want to give a special shout out to Michelle West, Chamber Speak, who has dragged me kicking and screaming into the blogosphere these past months! Michelle will be doing a lot of traveling and won’t be available on a regular basis going forward. Thank you Michelle for all your help with speaking, books, and social media the past several years!)