Email #116, Subject: “We can have both”?

Thank you for your letter about the Stream Protection Rule. You wrote earlier in your e-newsletter: “the flawed Stream Protection Rule … would annihilate America’s coal industry and threaten thousands of good paying jobs.” You included the statement under the banner “Rolling Back Red Tape” and implied that the only issue was over-regulation.

I wrote to you about the rule on February 14th and received your response last weekend. You now write:

“It is good to hear from you and we agree on the importance of clean water and a healthy environment.” You stated your claim that the rule was “too broad and too costly” and citied evidence: “In a report compiled by the National Mining Association, it was estimated that the proposed rule would eliminate 40,000-78,000 coal mining jobs.” I don’t know if the industry’s association is adequately objective, but giving them the benefit of the doubt, that figure is troubling. You also argued that the agency that produced the rule “did not comply with the requirement to engage in meaningful consultation with the impacted state governments during the yearlong development of this rule.” The adjective “meaningful” is intentionally vague but implies that the OSM did consult, but not in a sincere manner, which, if true, is also troubling. You concluded that “regulations should be carefully crafted to protect public health, safety, and the environment.  However, they must not be allowed to decimate entire industries. We can have both a healthy economy and a healthy environment, but such a balance will not be achieved with costly, overly broad regulations that do not take into account the real-world impacts of their implementation.”

Although I may disagree with it, your letter presents a reasonable argument crafted in a thoughtful manner. Your newsletter, however, does not. Why do you use such different forms of communication for your different constituents? I understand that my concern about stream protection triggered your form letter, but why don’t your newsletter readers deserve the same, thoughtful treatment?

You have stated repeatedly that you prioritize communication with constituents. But your newsletter does not communicate — it exploits. It assumes that readers hold certain positions and plays to those prejudices. Rather than acknowledging how extremely difficult it is to balance protecting jobs in an already-decimated industry over the long-term needs of the environment and the fairness of requiring companies to repair the damage they do, you just dismissed the rule as “red tape.” You played to the conservative stereotype that all regulations are bad regulations.

This is a disservice to your conservative constituents. Instead of educating them about complex issues, you reduce their knowledge to slogans. All of your constituents deserve and need better from you. We are in a profoundly divisive political moment. You can help to repair the damage that has already been done or you can continue to exploit that damage and make our political environment even worse.

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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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