Recently, residents of Flint, Michigan, learned their drinking water was contaminated by lead, thanks to state government incompetence and/or malfeasance. Bernie Sanders demanded Gov. Rick Snyder's resignation. Filmmaker Michael Moore petitioned to have Snyder arrested. An emergency has been declared. Investigations are mounting.
In other words, last week was not a particularly good time to show tone deafness on the subject of water quality.
Particularly not for Pat McCrory, whose cozy relationship and secret meetings with execs at Duke Energy, his former employer, make news—not a good look when your Department of Environmental Quality recently downgraded risk ratings for many of the company's coal-ash impoundments.
Yet McCrory just had to weigh in on last week's 252–166 vote in Congress to weaken the EPA's Waters of the United States rule, which was issued last year and designates which rivers and other waterways fall under the feds' jurisdiction. President Obama will veto, of course, and while Republicans have been waxing hyperbolic about this for some time—last year, former House Speaker John Boehner called it a "raw and tyrannical power grab"—the issue is probably moot for now.
Still, McCrory's office was quick to issue a supportive statement Thursday, letting farmers know that he would not let Obama take "large swaths of land" from them and place them "under control of the federal government."
From the statement: "We are pleased that Congress has joined us in fighting against the EPA's federal overreach of North Carolina waters. Leaders in Congress recognize that this federal rule is a huge blow to North Carolina's farmers and economic development."
"We're saddened that [McCrory] is putting the interests of corporate polluters in front of the public health protections that North Carolinians so desperately need," counters Dave Rogers, state director of Environment North Carolina. "If we've seen anything in the last few years in North Carolina, it's that our state needs to do more to protect folks' drinking water."
Rogers also dismisses McCrory's posturing as a protector of farmers.
"We have seen that misinformation campaign that's largely led by industrial polluters and giant developers to try to paint a picture of the federal government overseeing swales and ditches," he says. "Waters of the U.S. does not do that. Really, what it does is protect the rivers and streams that actually feed in to our lakes and our drinking water sources."
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