Slick & Cynical Rollout of “Clean Water Rule” Aptly Demonstrates Ultra-Political Nature of O’s EPA

by William Yeatman on June 2, 2015

EPA's CWA rule: For the kidz

EPA’s CWA rule: For the kidz

Plainly, the Obama administration has politicized the Environmental Protection Agency to an unprecedented degree.

Take, for example, the unseemly nexus between the agency and green special interests. Environmental groups like Sierra Club and NRDC spent untold resources getting President Obama elected; in turn, they were given the run of the mill at the EPA.

Of course, special interest regulatory capture is merely a variant of old-fashioned spoils politics, but the agency also evinces a more contemporary obsession with political “optics.” Consider the “strategic communications” memo unearthed by my colleague Chris Horner. Early in the Obama administration, the memo was circulated among EPA heavies—including Richard Windsor—and it makes the ultra-cynical case that the agency should justify its impending climate regulatory regime on the basis of asthmatic children instead of climate change, because no one cares about polar ice caps. Very slick.

We got more of the same last week when EPA promulgated a regulation that vastly expands federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The rule’s roll out was obviously focus-group tested.  

For starters, there’s the rule’s name. Originally, it was the “Waters of the U.S. Rule.” However, the final rule goes by the name “Clean Water Rule.” See what they did there? The old name evoked federal authority, which is appropriate, because the rule is a naked power grab. On the other hand, the new and improved name connotes clean water—and who could possibly disagree with that?

Yet the rule’s renaming is thin soup relative to the agency’s repeated intimation that the purity of the country’s drinking water hangs in the balance. Indeed, if you believed the agency’s press materials attendant to the rule, you’d think that EPA adopted the regulation in order to arrest a clear and present danger to the safety of your tap water.

From the press release:

People need clean water for their health: About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule.

From the fact sheet:

About 117 million Americans–one in three people–get drinking water from streams that were vulnerable to pollution before the Clean Water Rule.

This is, as my colleague Myron Ebell noted in an email yesterday, total BS, due to the simple fact that the sole purpose of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which EPA also administers, is to protect drinking water.

Over at Open Market, I penned a primer on the rule. Suffice it to say here: The measure has a tortuous backstory, one that evolved over a very long time. And at no point during that time was the rule ever associated with a pressing impetus to protect the drinking water for more than 100 million Americans. Nor has there been any drumbeats of alarm regarding drinking water pollution from municipal or state officials. Moreover, I don’t recall any congressional hearings investigating the allegedly precarious state of the country’s drinking water. You’d think these public officials would be up in arms, if *polluters* posed such a dire threat to our drinking water, as EPA endeavors to impart.

Rather, the agency’s laser-like focus on the rule’s supposed protection for drinking water is no doubt the result of an expensive, taxpayer funded PR campaign to mislead the public about the purpose of the rule. Such is regulation in the Obama era, alas.

*****Bonus Silliness on Same Matter******

EPA’s attempt to portray the “Clean Water Rule” as being necessary to protect drinking water is shameless. Naturally, the professional green movement took this theme even further, to the point of unintentional hilarity. Last weekend during the Sunday political talkies (i.e., Meet the Press, This Week, etc.), the League of Conservation Voters repeatedly ran the issue ad below, which claims that the Clean Water Rule is necessary not only for safe drinking water, but also to protect safe drinking water…for children. See for yourself:

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