Why is a women’s group attacking clean water safeguards?The answer tells a larger story about how massive corporations have bought our government and our politicians. And it’s on prominent display in the Last Frontier.
In 2015, the Obama Administration adopted a long-needed rule to clarify the Clean Water Act’s wetlands protection provisions. Over the years, lawsuits filed by corporations had muddied the waters around which waters federal law covered, and which waters it did not.
The rule is called the “Clean Water Rule,” and it’s also known as “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS), because it defines which water bodies fall under federal jurisdiction. Importantly, WOTUS sought to implement what scientists have known for many decades: our rivers and lakes and wetlands and ocean are all connected in one giant hydrologic cycle (called “connectivity”), and we need to protect these waters from their headwaters to the sea if we want fishable, swimmable and drinkable water.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the rule would only expand Clean Water Act jurisdiction by roughly 3%. But predictably, corporate agricultural, mining and oil and gas giants came unhinged. They rolled out their tried and true, fear-mongering handbook, decrying EPA’s massive government overreach, and its threats to private property rights. What really drove corporate concerns, however, is what always drives corporate concerns: profits. If Monsanto and Exxon and the Pebble Partnership are forced to protect our wetlands, it will cost them money, and that means less profit for shareholders and CEO’s.
So, how’s all this come back to the women’s group – the Independent Women’s Forum – fighting to rollback basic clean water protections? As Deepthroat famously exhorted during the Watergate scandal, “follow the money.”
The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) is part of a large and well-coordinated network of far-right conservatives fueled by the billionaire Koch Brothers and some of the richest people in the U.S. Jane Mayer’s 2016 book “Dark Money” provides a powerful and sobering look at how the Koch’s helped build an ideological infrastructure designed to vilify government and thereby facilitate a massive transfer of public wealth into private hands. According to the New York Times,
“The [Koch] brothers had spent or raised hundreds of millions of dollars to create [political] majorities in their image. They had succeeded. And not merely at the polls: They had helped to finance and organize an interlocking network of think tanks, academic programs and news media outlets that far exceeded anything the liberal opposition could put together.”
IWF is tightly aligned with other Koch-funded groups, and has received millions of dollars in support from them through murky funding streams that make donors’ identities difficult to trace. Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan also takes Koch money, and he’s unabashedly aligned himself with a radical corporate agenda that puts corporations above ordinary Alaskans. It came as no surprise, then, when Dan Sullivan hosted a WOTUS field hearing in Fairbanks which he packed with pro-corporate testimony.
And then there’s Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator. In addition to denying the settled science behind climate change, Pruitt fought the WOTUS rule while serving as Oklahoma Attorney General, at the behest of big ag and oil and gas interests. Now he’s leading the charge to dismantle the rule altogether.
So, it’s time – yet again! – to stand up for clean water and healthy salmon, and to tell the corporate profiteers to keep their hands off our fisheries. Take a couple minutes to tell EPA we need holistic, watershed-based safeguards to protect the fisheries that support our families and our communities.