Email #70, Subject: “flawed” stream protection?

I understand that balancing environmental protection with economic needs is very difficult. The coal industry has been in decline for years, and environmental regulations make that decline even harder. The more coal companies can legally pollute, the lower their costs and so the longer they can stay in business. I get that. You are prioritizing a failing industry and its remaining employees over the long-term protection of the environment.

That’s why you voted against what you called “the flawed Stream Protection Rule,” which you said “would annihilate America’s coal industry and threaten thousands of good paying jobs.” Your choice of “annihilate” is misleading, since the coal industry is already in very serious trouble. Preventing coal companies from burying streams will not save it. Sadly, the pollution of those waterways also affects those very same employees you are trying to help. The rule also allowed temporary burying, as long as companies restored damaged streams after mining was complete. Why is that “flawed”?  You break something, you fix it. It seems like common sense.

But while I see that reasonable people can disagree about how exactly to balance industry and environmental needs, your justification for your vote against the Stream Protection Rule is not reasonable. You bragged about it in a recent newsletter under the banner “Rolling Back Red Tape.” You implied that the only issue was over-regulation: “The way Washington makes regulations must change so that smarter, more efficient regulations become the norm, not the exception.”

Obviously it would be more “efficient” for coal companies to ignore the damage they cause. But it’s not red tape burying our streams. Its mining waste. While this is a difficult issue, your summary suggests that either you have an implausibly simple-minded understanding of it, or that you are manipulating your voters with intentionally simple-minded explanations. If you are going to vote for pollution, be honest about your reasons. The issue is not “red tape.” It’s prioritizing short-term jobs over the environment.

Chris Gavaler

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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