One of the main casualties in the first week of Trump’s presidency has been the U.S. environmental policy. Hot on the heels of a proposal to sell off 3.3 million acres of public land, the GOP continued to sully America’s already tarnished environmental legislation on February 2nd when the Senate struck down The Stream Protection Rule that prevented coal mining waste from being dumped into nearby rivers and streams. The house followed the Senate’s lead and the bill was passed 228-194.
While environmentalists everywhere are having conniptions, coal mining communities and their representatives see this as a huge win for the industry. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) said, “Tomorrow, we’re turning the page on Obama’s war on coal.” Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association told the press,”This is one very, very important step to get coal back on its feet and stop the hemorrhaging of jobs that we’ve seen.” This move seems to follow along with Trump’s new coal-focused energy policy and lawmakers hope that fewer restrictions will stimulate growth in the coal industry – though evidence supporting this claim is dubious.
So what did The Stream Protection Rule actually do? The legislations went into effect in 2016 and was designed to protect over 6,000 miles of rivers and streams as well as large swaths of forest in coal mining regions. It specifically targeted mountain top removal mining, which is where miners will basically blow up a mountain and then sift through the rubble for coal. The debris is often dumped in the surrounding valleys.
Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, believes that the industrial waste from this process has choked out over 2,o00 streams already. The same study also found that this debris was getting into the water supply of the surrounding towns and could have potentially deadly consequences. According to this report, studies have associated mountaintop removal and other forms of coal mining in Appalachia with increased rates of chronic respiratory and kidney disease, deaths from cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer, hypertension, and low birth weights in babies. What’s perhaps more shocking is this: “Life expectancy for both men and women actually declined between 1997 and 2007 in Appalachian counties with the most strip mining, even as life expectancy in the U.S. as a whole increased by more than a year. In 2007, life expectancy in the five Appalachian counties with the most strip mining was comparable to that in developing countries like Iran, Syria, El Salvador, and Vietnam.”
So while the representative who engendered the repeal, Bill Johnson (R-OH), told Time, “Make no mistake about it, this Obama administration rule is not designed to protect streams. Instead, it was an effort to regulate the coal mining industry right out of business,” he is flat out wrong. We need to be vocal about this issue and educate the public about this irresponsible legislation. It seems a bit ridiculous to promise people jobs in the short-term while compromising the health and well-being of their families and communities in the long-run.
Share this post with your friends and family and get the word out about how dangers allowing coal into our drinking water is. Contact your state representative and tell them how upsetting the loss of these protections is to you. If we all come together our collective voices are loud enough to reach congress.
This is not just empty rhetoric – it actually works. Remember the proposed sale of 3.3 million acres of public land we mentioned at beginning of this article? Due to the massive public outcry from all parts of the country, the bill was taken off the table! And if we keep fighting, we can reprotect our rivers, streams, and families too!
Image source: Jim Parkin/Shutterstock