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BUSTED: Big Ag's Big Myths About the Clean Water Protection Rule

Jon Devine

Posted July 24, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Green Enterprise, Health and the Environment, The Media and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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One of my kids’ (and my) favorite TV shows is “Mythbusters.” It’s got a great combination of fact-based scrutiny of popularly held beliefs and a healthy dose of excellently infantile humor.  Given how fun they make it look, I expected to really enjoy myself when I tried my own hand at it, albeit in the distinctly wonky world of clean water policy.  Alas, my experience in myth-busting has been pretty dispiriting. 

Because a number of industry organizations, publicly led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, an agribusiness lobby group, have been attacking a new clean water proposal with a flood of overstatement, dishonesty, and flat-out falsehood, clean water advocates, other farming organizations, and even the Environmental Protection Agency have been forced to devote significant time and effort to rebutting myths that have been generated about the new Clean Water Protection Rule proposal.  NRDC even invited the Farm Bureau to a debate about the rule, which it has ducked. 

But we need to keep pushing back, because these myths are scaring people, especially farmers, about the rule.  In reality, the proposal is a commonsense effort to restore protections under the Clean Water Act to critical streams, wetlands, and other waters that today are in legal limbo, and it actually needs to be stronger, not weaker.

Rather than acknowledging its over-the-top rhetoric when it has been exposed, the Farm Bureau has doubled down, suggesting that the rule would regulate virtually every drop of water in the United States, plus vast swaths of dry land to boot.  In fact, following an EPA official’s blog post describing some of the myths about the proposal, the Farm Bureau last week put out a long-form version of its most misleading claims, as a point-counterpoint to the EPA blog. 

So, I sat down at the computer again, and created a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal to the Farm Bureau’s rebuttal (does that make it a “threebuttal”?).  You can read it in its entirety by clicking here: Analysis of AFBF response to EPA myth blog.pdf.  I’d like to think that the Mythbusters would, after reading the various materials, declare the Farm Bureau’s many claims to be “BUSTED.”

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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