The Water Advocacy Coalition (WAC) appears to be an environmental group whose goal is to protect the nation’s waterways. The group’s website, protectmywater.org contains a banner that reads “Protect the Clean Water Act,” and a photo slide show of streams and mountain lakes. The group’s bio on its Facebook and Twitter (@ProtectCWA) account states, “Our coalition is made up of diverse organizations that have an interest in and actively protect our nation’s waters and wetlands resources.” WAC is, in fact, the antithesis of an environmental group. Think along the lines of the groups that oppose climate change. Only this group is concerned with water and pretends to be what it is not.
The home page of the group’s website states that the Clean Water Act (CWA) “has been responsible for extraordinary advances in improving the health of the nation’s surface waters and watersheds.” So far, so good. It calls the CWA a “commonsense law” which helped create “strong federal-state working partnerships” and continues to improve the country’s “water quality and our environment.” Then the website mentions that Congress is considering changing the Clean Water Act with legislation called the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA)/Americans Commitment to Clean Water Act (ACCWA).
The website goes on to claim that the “CWRA/ACCWA could undermine the federal-state partnership created by the Clean Water Act, giving the federal government authority over all waters of the United States.” Let’s all join in a rousing chorus of “What?!”
The New York Times describes the group as “a lobbying outfit for some of the nation’s largest industrial and agricultural concerns.” The organizations WAC lobbies for include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Industrial Sand Association and the National Mining Association.
Bill Chameides, a Duke University professor, who blogs at the Green Grok calls WAC a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” That’s a pretty apt description considering that WAC led opposition last year to a bill that would have broadened the Clean Water Act to cover unprotected streams and waterways. WAC also objected to a mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining permit in West Virginia the EPA revoked on January 13, 2011. The EPA revoked the permit under Section 404(c) of the CWA, and argued that the project “would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend.”
The EPA was concerned about water contamination from blasting mountains tops that sent “110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams, buried more than six miles of high-quality streams in Logan County…[and] buried more than 35,000 feet of high-quality streams under mining waste.”
WAC sent a letter to Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality. The letter stated that the “implications could be staggering, reaching all areas of the U.S. economy including but not limited to the agriculture, home building, mining, transportation and energy sectors.” The letter went on to claim that revoking the permit will “chill investment and job creation.”
Chameides ends his post on WAC by asking, “But why does a pro-business organization see the need to advance its agenda by posing as an environmental advocacy group? Could it be that it’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes?” The answer is a resounding, “YES!”