(Posted by Bill Thompson.)
We saw it coming. The assault against science and facts hit a new low when opponents of mandatory efforts to regulate clean water in the Chesapeake Bay used a March 16 House Agriculture subcommittee hearing to further their attempts to undercut the U.S. EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) requirements.
If it appeared that Congressional Republican and Democrat members of the Conservation, Energy and Forestry Subcommittee had ganged up against the EPA’s pollution diet plan to control the flow of nitrogen, phosphorous and other contaminants into the Bay, it’s probably because not a single environmentalist was invited to testify. By comparison, the fantasy-world trial of Alice by the Queen of Hearts is a model of fair-minded jurisprudence.
As we said in an earlier post, the American Farm Bureau and other agribusiness groups have every right to represent their constituencies. But it should not be the role of Congress to abet the deliberate distortions of scientific evidence or to assist attempts by special interests to smear the messenger.
During the hearing, the messenger in the hot seat was Deputy EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, a former Maryland environment secretary, whose agency was accused of trying to ramrod new TMDL pollution standards into cleanup plans drafted by the six watershed states and the District of Columbia and, in the process, of exceeding the agency’s authority to step in when states fail to crack down on pollution directly linked to chicken and livestock farms.
If U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who grilled Perciasepe on the subject of EPA’s authority, was serious about his inquiry, all he needs to do is read Title III of the Clean Water Act.
But the subcommittee’s greatest disservice to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts was allowing the hearing room to become an echo chamber of the tired and disproved illusion that voluntary measures are adequate to put the bay on track to recovery. To their credit and as pointed out in a U.S. Department of Agriculture study released the day before the hearing (“Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region”), many farmers have adopted conservation efforts that have reduced the flow of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous loads into the watershed. The same study also pointed out that 80 percent of the bay region’s croplands need more pollution controls.
Mostly lost during the hearing’s broadsides against the EPA and mandatory TMDL guidelines was Perciasepe’s testimony about the current state of the Bay. Citing the Chesapeake Bay Program’s annual “Bay Barometer,” Perciasepe noted that 13 measures of the Bay’s health revealed conditions that did not meet restoration goals.
What is it about science that the Agriculture subcommittee doesn’t like?