Illinois Congressmen, Farm Bureau, Spread EPA Conspiracy Theories

I enjoyed Kate Sheppard’s article at Mother Jones, “The Right’s Top 5 EPA Conspiracy Theories.” It was less enjoyable to remember that I’ve heard several of these conspiracy theories spread by Illinois members of Congress and the Farm Bureau.

My favorite is that EPA will regulate dust from driving down dirt roads. John Shimkus spread this conspiracy during a House committee hearing, and in speeches to constituents, he even claims that EPA will require the paving of all rural dirt roads.

Illinois news outlets that covered Shimkus’ fear-mongering didn’t let their readers know about EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s statement that they shimkushave no plans to regulate dust. One reason why Shimkus always wins re-election is that local reporters don’t challenge his misleading statements.

Another conspiracy theory that sounded familiar is EPA regulation of cow farts and human breathing. When I brought up pollution from coal power plants with Congressman Bobby Schilling after his forum he changed the subject to regulating methane from cows because that’s another source of global warming pollutants. I’m not entirely sure what point he was trying to make.

In fact, regulation of CO2 is only being proposed for major sources, such as coal power plants.

Most of these conspiracy theories have a common theme. The actual proposed regulations would apply to major sources of pollution, mostly in the coal, oil and gas industries. What these conspiracies do is imagine far-fetched ways that regulation of major polluters will harm farmers and others in rural areas.

It’s an attempt by the fossil fuel industry to use rural Americans as their pawns, even as those companies are polluting the air and water in rural areas. Farmers are already some of the first victims of climate change as unpredictable severe weather patterns, including heavier spring rains, delay the planting and harvesting seasons. The Illinois Farm Bureau isn’t doing its members any favors by playing the fossil fuel industry’s game.