EPA water rule pits liberal billionaires against rural farmers

What do left-wing billionaires and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) definition of “navigable waters” have in common? More than the former would care to admit about the latter.

Before adjourning and heading home for campaign season, the House of Representatives passed a bill to prevent the EPA from implementing its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule. Farmers and ranchers have cried foul over what they see as a regulatory power grab that threatens their livelihoods. However, EPA insists it is merely clarifying vague statutory language (what constitutes “navigable waters”) under the Clean Water Act.

{mosads}Even murkier than the CWA’s statutory language are the groups that have emerged to support EPA. Some claim to represent anglers, hunters, and other “sportsmen,” but a deeper dive reveals that they’re shilling for wealthy liberal activists at the expense of rural farmers.

Recently, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) blasted out an “Action Alert” urging its members to oppose H.R. 5078, which would block EPA’s water rule. IWLA praises EPA for “restor[ing] protections to many of these important waters,” over the objections of farmers, who fear that EPA’s proposal gives federal regulators undue control over how they use their private property. Just this week, IWLA co-signed a letter supporting EPA’s proposed power plant rules.

So who is IWLA and why do they stand opposed to the farming community? IWLA is a Maryland-based group with numerous local chapters whose members support uncontroversial causes like hunting and angling. These grassroots members should check up on their national office.

IWLA national has received $4.1 million from the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that Senate investigators dubbed a “quintessential example of a pass through frequently employed by the Billionaire’s Club” of liberal activists. Essentially, Energy Foundation helps wealthy liberals disguise their donations to activist groups—apparently some of these liberal backers deemed IWLA worthy.

Other so-called “sportsmen” groups that support EPA’s water rule are also just liberal front groups. Earlier this year, several organizations—including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), Trout Unlimited, and IWLA—co-signed a press release offering praise for EPA’s “huge step forward for protecting America’s waters and wildlife.”

The press release should have come with a warning: liberal activism is closer than it may appear. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), for instance, was co-founded by the liberal Pew Charitable Trusts about a decade ago. One of the other co-founders: IWLA.

TRCP claims it is comprised of “grassroots partners.” However, the group receives 77 percent of its funding from eight donors. Major  backers include the liberal Hewlett and Packard foundations, San Francisco-based outfits that oppose coal and natural gas development. Trout Unlimited also counts among its supporters the Hewlett and Packard foundations and Pew.

Sportsmen should make no mistake that these camouflaged green groups will sell them short. This was never clearer than last year when Democrats in Congress moved to ban some of the most popular sporting firearms. Where were these so-called sportsmen’s groups then? TRCP did its best ostrich impression and claimed that it doesn’t work on 2nd Amendment issues.

Meanwhile, former Democrat staffer Gaspar Perricone of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance—another group supporting the EPA’s water rule—parroted Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun talking points. This position makes more sense when you hear that Bull Moose Sportsmen’s major funder is the Western Conservation Foundation, a front group for a whole host of leftist causes.

What does EPA’s rule mean for farmers? Echoing the general sentiment of the agricultural community, the Nebraska Farm Bureau slammed the proposal as “very disruptive to farming and ranching,” adding that the rule “would affect every possible thing farmers and ranchers could do on the land.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy dismissed such criticism as “ludicrous.”

EPA’s water rule pits liberal billionaires against rural farmers. Except it isn’t a fair fight when the well-heeled dress up their true intentions in sportsmen’s garb. Americans shouldn’t let these green decoys sell them down the river. 

Coggin is a senior research analyst at the Environmental Policy Alliance, a project of the non-profit Center for Organizational Research and Education. CORE is supported by a wide variety of businesses and foundations, including those in the hospitality, agriculture, and energy industries.

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