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“Joni Ernst Fights For Dirty Water In Iowa”: Shows How Far Republican Candidates Have Drifted From The Party’s Old Moorings

Joni Ernst, the winner of the Iowa Senate Republican primary on Tuesday, has a briefcase full of the usual shopworn, hard-right policies: no same-sex marriage, no reform of immigration, no federal minimum wage, no Education Department, no progressive tax code. She still clings to the idea of private accounts for Social Security.

But one of her positions, expressed at a recent debate, demonstrates a particularly pernicious and little-known crusade of the modern Republican Party: she opposes the Clean Water Act. She called it one of the most damaging laws for business.

That a Senate nominee could take this position, even more than the others, shows how far Republican candidates have drifted from the party’s old moorings. In 1972, the Clean Water Act passed with full bipartisan support, and is widely regarded as one of the most successful environmental acts ever passed. It doubled the number of rivers, streams and lakes suitable for fishing and swimming. It drastically reduced the amount of chemicals in drinking water, and substantially increased the size of protected wetlands. Rivers no longer catch fire.

The law’s value is so obvious that it shouldn’t even be necessary to defend it. But in Iowa, it remains a divisive issue, and Ms. Ernst’s offhand remark was a clear signal to the state’s big agricultural interests of which side she is on.

Iowa’s waterways are notoriously dirty, the result of runoffs from vast livestock operations and crop fertilizer. The problem has become worse in recent years with a sharp increase in the global demand for pork, leading to enormous hog farms that pack tens of thousands of pigs into small spaces. Last year, the Des Moines water utility had to turn on, for the first time, the world’s largest nitrate-removal plant to get the chemical — the result of manure and fertilizer pollution — out of people’s taps. (Excessive nitrates can cause cancer and miscarriages, and are linked to “blue baby syndrome,” in which infants suffocate.)

“The issue is the quality of the water in the Raccoon and the Des Moines” rivers, Bill Stowe, the waterworks manager, told the Des Moines Register last year. “This trend is absolutely off the scale. It’s like having serial tornadoes. You can deal with one, you can deal with two, but you can’t deal with them every day.”

For years, the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which is in the pocket of big agriculture, didn’t deal with the runoff problems. And two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency told the state that it was violating the Clean Water Act and must immediately do a better job. State farm operations and politicians have bridled at the moderate increase in regulation that resulted, and last year House Republicans passed a bill that would undermine enforcement of the Clean Water Act, giving the states much more power to set their own rules. (Fortunately the bill was never taken up in the Senate.)

Ms. Ernst wants to take the seat of Senator Tom Harkin, who is retiring after compiling a strong liberal and pro-environmental record. For Iowans who worry about what’s coming out of their faucets, she has a great deal of explaining to do.


By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, June 4, 2014

June 8, 2014 - Posted by | GOP, Right Wing | , , , , , ,

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