OUR OPINION: Thompson’s quip to ‘Follow the law’ likely a cop-out

Published 4:00 am Sunday, April 3, 2022

It’s been more than a week since U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, addressed the Vicksburg Rotary Club, and still, The Post hasn’t run a story on his comments about the Yazoo Backwater Pumps project.

It’s not because we don’t intend to write one — it’s because, quite simply, a straight answer to questions asked seems unattainable.

When asked by The Post if he believed in “environmental justice” for people of the Kings community, who are routinely subject to river flooding, Thompson reversed the blame for the issues on the people of Kings, saying they turned down hand-outs from the government.

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“When I first started, Kings flooded. It had nothing to do with the pumps,” he said. “I had money two times to get and buy all the property in Kings, so that the people who’d lose their homes wouldn’t lose their homes. The Kings community decide they were going to stick it out, and that’s been the biggest problem with Kings.”

While this response was troubling, the unrelated but arguably just as serious concerns raised about those impacted by the Yazoo Backwater Flood was even more so.

Thompson said he is on record supporting the completion of the Yazoo Backwater Pumps Project, which is true — his voting record in Congress reflects as much. However, he is also on record as sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency in August 2021, requesting an inquiry into the project due to “serious concerns.”

By November 2021, the EPA announced it was vetoing the project.

“I’m on record supporting the pumps, but I’m also on record saying they need to follow the law,” Thompson said. “I’m a law-abiding citizen. If the pumps don’t comply with the law, I’m not going to support them.”

Thompson mentioned “the law” 10 separate times in his response to The Post and to another citizen in attendance at the Rotary Club meeting, who inquired about his farmland that is actively flooding in the Yazoo Backwater area.

When Thompson was approached and asked to identify which law he was referring to, he answered a question with another question.

“Have you seen the letter the EPA sent on the pumps? It’s in the letter,” he said.

The letter, issued on Nov. 17, 2021, referenced Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

Since last Thursday, The Post has contacted officials at the state and federal levels in an attempt to get an explanation as to which portion of Section 404(c) the Pumps Project violated. So far, none have responded.

We are committed to completely reporting all information about the pumps, and will not stop until questions are answered for the sake of our readers.