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The State Fair is Missouri’s grand celebration of agriculture. It’s our annual gathering of rural communities coming together to show and tell, laugh, love, eat, drink and be merry. It’s also a time for rural republican legislators to jump on their soapboxes and pontificate to their base.

There’s no denying the political divide in our country. Mere percentage points win elections. But you would think certain issues would unite all Americans. You would think we could come together on matters so vital that life as we know it hinges on a collective understanding and appreciation for the need to protect a resource.

The idea of fighting against clean water makes my head spin. Yet, there I stood on sweltering hot mid-August morning, packed shoulder to shoulder in the Farm Bureau building filled with folks wearing everything from business suits to blue jean overalls, listening in disbelief as a United States Senator and two members of our United States Congress denounced, and incited action against, the Clean Water Act.

“You can’t regulate every ditch in Missouri,” Senator Roy Blunt said.

The Senator is correct. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can’t and won’t regulate every ditch in Missouri. Only those running downstream into larger navigable waters will be regulated. And since over 2.5 million Missourians receive their drinking water from downstream sources, you would think regulating what goes into those waters would be important to people, especially our elected leaders.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler does not think that’s a good idea though. She believes protecting headwater streams from pollution “is a federal power grab that needs to be pushed back on at every turn.”

The Congresswoman has a special name for the Clean Water Act.

“I call it the ‘Mother May I Rule.’ And if this goes through I think we are going to have to go to big government and ask ‘mother may I’ to plant a crop or to protect our crops or to make any changes or build a terrace or to build a pond; mother may I do this? Can I not? And that’s just wrong. I think it is unconstitutional,” Hartzler said.

What confuses me, as a person who enjoys drinking cleaning water and confidently handing a glass of clean water to my children, a simple act fathers of many nations could only dream of doing, is what the opponents to the Clean Water Act hope to accomplish. Unless you are already polluting or plan to pollute in the future, then what are you fighting against? Why do you feel you have a right to dump pollutants into water sources that flow into the water my family drinks?

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer said, “The EPA is not our friend, generally. We have to be very careful whenever they say they’re here to help us, because quite frankly, generally they are not. But all of you know that.”

The EPA, whose mission is, “To protect human health and the environment,” is not our friend? I don’t know. I kind of like what they do. I’ll take clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Might it cost me a few extra dollars a month? May I have to drive a truck that doesn’t below out black smoke from four-foot stacks? Yes, but hopefully, long after I’m gone, the sacrifices of a few dollars will have resulted in a cleaner, happier, healthier future for our world. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t sound so bad.

Senator Blunt said, “Commonsense doesn’t prevail if people pursue policies that don’t meet the commonsense standard.”

Like ensuring clean water?

The Senator continued, “The closer you solve a problem to where the problem is, the more likely you’re going to get a solution that meets that standard of commonsense. And the further you move the solution away, the less likely it’s going to be the solution of commonsense.”

Precisely. Which is exactly why waters need to be protected at their source. Commonsense tells me protecting waters downstream that have already been polluted upstream is a little backwards.

Congresswoman Hartzler doesn’t see it that way.

“This rule has a very, very disturbing definition of neighboring waters. Part of it says any water in a watershed that eventually might get to a creek, which might get to a river, which might get to a navigable (waterway) is under the jurisdiction of the federal U.S. Government. That is wrong. So we can’t let this stand,” she said.

I don’t think that is wrong. I think that is the exact commonsense the Senator was talking about. If you pour pollutants into a stream that runs into a creek that runs into a river, then those pollutants end up in the river. Pretty simple.

Clean Water is essential to living life. We must protect our water and doing so begins at the source. It’s commonsense.