A Little Humor About Something Big and Serious: “The Exaggerator” Talks About the Clean Water Proposal

Dirty water isn’t a joke.  However, lobbyists representing polluting industries have made some comically over-the-top attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency’s and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed plan to protect our nation’s waterways.  We felt that the clean water opponents’ ridiculous statements deserved some ridicule in return.

The proposed Clean Water Protection Rule would clarify what types of water bodies are covered by the Clean Water Act, restoring protections to vital small streams, wetlands, and other waters that help supply drinking water for about 117 million Americans. Unfortunately, groups that have long been opposed to strong clean water protections have claimed that the rule would do all kinds of inane things, like regulating puddles or tire tracks in fields.  Their campaign diverts attention from the central and quite serious issue: we can’t possibly expect to have clean water in our larger, downstream bodies of water without protecting the small streams and headwaters that feed into them.   That’s why NRDC has refuted these arguments directly and why we launched a humorous video ad today, aptly titled “The Exaggerator,” to clear up these myths and shed some light on the grossly exaggerated and false claims corporate polluters are spreading about the proposed Clean Water Protection Rule.  The video is up on YouTube and is embedded below.

The video features comedian Ted Travelstead from Vines’ “Twins Talking,” and he plays Jim, also known as “The Exaggerator.” In the video, Jim launches a barrage of unsubstantiated claims about the proposed rule – claims that special interest groups are actually making in opposition to it. For instance, “The Exaggerator” claims that puddles he sees forming after a rainstorm would be regulated under the proposed rule, though the rule only clarifies protections for actual bodies of water – not puddles that pop up after a heavy rain.  Later, Jim calls the rule “the biggest land grab in the history of any governmental agency in the history of mankind, really.”  Although this is a direct quote from an opponent of the rule, it is of course completely absurd.  The proposed rule doesn’t seize anyone’s land and actually only would cover an estimated 3% more individual water bodies in the United States, compared to current practices.  To top it all off, Jim asserts that this type of government regulation would never have happened if Ronald Reagan had anything to say about it, but the truth is that more waters were protected during the Reagan administration than would be if the new proposal were adopted.

Despite the fact that we’re using humor to expose the absurdity of the opposition’s claims, we’re hopeful that the debate can now focus on the serious issues and the very real need to protect our feeder streams and wetlands.  As we’ve seen this year in Toledo and West Virginia, we cannot afford to delay action to protect our nation’s waters any longer.  More than 700,000 Americans have already commented in support of the rule, applauding its efforts to restore vital protections to small wetlands and streams.   It’s time to get serious and stop letting exaggerators like Jim get in the way of the health of our waters.

About the Authors

Jon Devine

Senior Attorney, Water program

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