A National Scandal: How US Climate Funding Will Make Water Pollution Worse

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The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has been applauded by many US organizations and activists due to the generous funding earmarked for projects to “combat climate change and environmental health.”

But there are some concerns that certain provisions of this new law could aggravate an existing environmental disaster in the nation’s heartland by increasing the level of farm-related pollution into waterways and groundwater.

Though it is “intended” to reduce emissions, the $369 billion dollar law includes incentives for producing more corn-fed ethanol refineries and manure-based energy production, which could lead to more fertilizer and fecal contamination getting into water sources.

“It’s going to end up in the water,” Rebecca Ohrtman, a water quality specialist from Iowa, said of the contaminants from crop production and what are commonly called “confined animal feeding operations” (CAFOs).

Ohrtman spent much of her career as a water protection coordinator with the state of Iowa. “I can’t believe they’re going to provide all this funding with no strings attached.”

The Great Lakes and midwest regions face nothing short of a water quality emergency, say those on the frontlines. Farming-related contaminants have already fouled thousands of drinking water wells from Minnesota to Missouri, and virtually every waterway in Iowa is degraded with little regulation to rein in the pollutants.

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Environmental advocate Emma Schmit stated: “It’s already a national emergency and a national scandal…We’re about to give large corporate farms carte blanche to make it worse.”

John Ikerd from University of Missouri added regarding this issue:

“Anytime we incentivize production of a nutrient-hungry crop, you’re going to get nutrient pollution,” Jones said. “Corn loses a lot of nutrients to the environment. We know that for a certainty. We’re incentivizing further production. We’re going to get more pollution. You don’t need to be a genius to know that.”

The Biden administration seeks to increase corn acreage as part of their energy strategy for ethanol being a primary feedstock for producing “sustainable” fuel for airlines. To this end, they aim to boost ethanol production from 15 billion gallons in 2022 to 21 billion gallons this year, with an ultimate goal of 23 billion gallons by 2025.

The $1.01 per gallon tax credit serves…

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