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

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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