Water Bill Wonderings

. May 8, 2018.

Q.What does the American Farm Bureau have to do with your water bill?

A. Plenty!

The American Farm Bureau (AFB), including its Ohio affiliate, represents operators of animal factory “farms.”

Since Toledo’s water crisis in 2014, we’re paying $6,000,000 a year more for chemicals as well as tens of millions of dollars in water treatment plant upgrades which are needed to detoxify lake water from the influx of mountains of animal waste – effluent which is more than the combined sewage of Los Angeles and Chicago – that’s dumped on fields which then drain into Lake Erie.

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Ohio Farm Bureau’s two most influential agents, Director and Deputy Director of the Ohio EPA, Craig Butler (right) and Karl Gebhardt, (left) are conversant with the rules and regs of the Clean Water Act.

Regular TCP readers know that Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie have been yelling for over two years to encourage the adoption of an EPA “impaired” designation for the “open waters of western Lake Erie.” That designation would start a process, under the Clean Water Act (CWA), to quantify a thorough pollution inventory, enforceable limits, binding timelines and, perhaps most frightening to animal factory operators, accountability—something the Ohio Farm Bureau and others in Ohio government have diligently avoided.

But Butler and Gebhardt have refused for a decade to put Lake Erie on the Ohio EPAs list of impaired water bodies sent to the USEPA.

Then they decided to add Lake Erie to the list just days before a federal court ruling ended the practice of animal feed lot operators using Lake Erie as their no-cost waste removal receptacle.

They are already backing away from the Clean Water Act (CWA) in favor of Ohio legislation that would retain the same failed, “voluntary measures” that have led to the compromised health of Lake Erie today. And they have used underhanded gimmicks to keep the public confused and docile.

Here’s what I mean.

Recently Deputy Dir. Gebhardt tried, for at least a second time, to frighten people with a bogus threat that CWA cleanup procedures “would generate many lawsuits similar to what happened with the Chesapeake Bay.” Toledoans have heard environmentalists describe Chesapeake Bay as starting to come back to life during a successful CWA cleanup. “But, lawsuits!? What?!”

Good readers, keep this in mind the next time Karl Gebhardt makes a pronouncement: Yes, there was a big Chesapeake Bay lawsuit. It took five years to go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But who filed it? The American Farm Bureau, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council, National Chicken Council and other corporate allies! And one more thing to keep in mind: OEPA Deputy Dir. Gebhardt is a former 19-year lobbyist for the Ohio Farm Bureau.

The Chesapeake Bay lawsuit filed by big corporate interests claimed that the EPA didn’t have authority to implement CWA limits on polluters. It lost, then lost on appeal, then the US Supreme Court refused to even hear the case. Had the big corporate interests won that lawsuit, you could have kissed the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie goodbye.

I find Mr. Gebhardt’s “lawsuit boogeyman” scare tactic especially offensive. He must think we are illiterate, or imbeciles, or maybe illiterate imbeciles. We have newspaper reports and news feeds. We can read them. We won’t be fooled again.

We want the EPA to do its job and abide by and enforce the Clean Water Act. We want a healthy lake. We want polluters to stop destroying it and for them to pay to clean it up.

You may want to let your public servants know.