Letter to the Editor: Our Commons Are Being Stolen

Under the current administration, 64 policies and protections have been reversed, rolled back or revoked by the Environmental Protection Agency as of May 2020, according to research by Harvard and Columbia Law Schools). The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. 

One example is the recent decision to reduce the water-quality discharge standards for coal-fired power plants. Such discharge water contains toxic levels of mercury, arsenic, nitrogen and selenium.

Clearly, we know – or should know – better because we have all lived through the consequences of our past ignorance regarding protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink. We know without a doubt that willful, deliberate ignorance of history and science, as exhibited by this administration, will lead to pollution-cleanup requirements in the future that we, our children and perhaps their children will pay for and suffer through. Multiply this one example by 64, and we have a look into a bleak, costly, distressing future.

If we need an example of what this looks like, think of the recently completed Fox River cleanup, which has cost more than $1 billion and taken 17 years. Yes, the responsible parties covered significant portions of it, but the regulatory agencies – and, importantly and ultimately, the public – incurred and is still incurring costs.

To paraphrase a 17th-century folk poem, “The law arrests those who steal the goose from the common, but not those who steal the common from the goose.” The “common” is our water, air, wildlife and publicly held natural resources. Today our commons are being stolen and degraded, and we will pay a steep price to restore them.

Whether we agree about the president’s or this administration’s level of concern for us or the Earth is not the point: We need to care and act. Such policies will, without fail, place a financial, health and social burden on us, our children, and the fish and wildlife of this country. Vote this fall to remove this administration from power.

Mike Grimm

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin