Advocacy group says new poll shows support among small business owners for stronger clean water rules

By Chris Adams

McClatchy Washington Bureau

July 23, 2014

WASHINGTON — A progressive business advocacy group said that small business owners from around the country support greater efforts by the federal government to protect the nation’s water, according to a poll the group commissioned.

The poll of small-business owners found that two-thirds were concerned about the impact water pollution could have on their businesses, and 80 percent favored extending federal clean water protections to streams and wetlands. Support on the second issue was strongest among Democrats, at 91 percent, but Republicans and independents also polled above 70 percent.

For that finding, respondents were asked: “One third of the nation’s waters do not now meet swimming and fishing water quality standards, due largely to upstream pollution in streams and wetlands. Would you favor or oppose ensuring that the federal rules that now protect our lakes and rivers also protect both the headwater streams that flow into our sources of drinking water, and the wetlands which filter pollution and prevent floods?”

The poll was commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council, an advocacy organization that, according to its Web site, promotes “economic development along with shared prosperity, environmental protection and social justice.”

Poll respondents also were asked to respond to scenarios in which a “pro-safeguards” statement (“Water contamination hurts businesses and the bottom line… Businesses that endanger local water supplies should be required to implement clean water safeguards”) was paired with an “anti-regulation” statement (“Overregulation by government agencies hurts businesses by forcing them to make costly, unnecessary changes to their business practices or else pay steep fines.)

In that set of statements and a second one, the pro-government position garnered about 60 percent support, double the anti-regulation position.

The respondents were also asked to lay out their position overall on environmental regulation, choosing between two statements: “Strong clean water protections are necessary to maintain a healthy economy and create local jobs” or “Clean water regulations are too burdensome and are hurting the economy and local jobs.”

The first statement – the pro-protections one – pulled 71 percent support, and the level was basically the same no matter the size of the small business.

The poll was conducted in early June and included 555 owners of businesses with up to 99 employees; the partisan breakdown was 43 percent Republican, 28 percent Democratic and the rest independent or other, and the margin of error was 4.2 percent. It was conducted by Lake Research Partners and pollster Celinda Lake, who traditionally works with Democratic clients.

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