Mary Anne Hitt is director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.
I live in West Virginia, one of the states where residents can now expect more toxic coal pollution in our streams and rivers thanks to a repeal of mining safeguards by the Republican-controlled Congress.
A few short days after that disastrous decision, the White House cancelled an environmental review and then approved the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline, which threatens the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux and millions more people downstream.
The Standing Rock Sioux have long opposed the Dakota Access pipeline because of the risk to drinking water, and this week’s decision was one more painful demonstration of how quickly some political leaders will put profits over public health and tribal sovereignty.
In December of 2016, the Obama administration had ordered an environmental review of the pipeline to study the effect it would have on the Standing Rock Sioux’s land and Lake Oahe, the body of water the pipeline would cut through, after thousands of tenacious, prayerful water protectors inspired the nation by resisting the pipeline with a simple message: water is life.
Here in Appalachia, where our streams have been ravaged for decades by coal mining, we were eager for the same basic, common-sense water pollution protections that the rest of the country takes for granted. The Stream Protection Rule had been in the works for eight years, but in wiping it off the books last week using an arcane maneuver that the New York Times described as a “legislative cudgel that has rarely been used,” Trump and the GOP again chose to side with polluters over people.
They didn’t just repeal the Stream Protection Rule ― House Speaker Paul Ryan bragged in a press release that it was “the first regulation repeal going to President Trump’s desk.”
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