The folks at Earthjustice have issued a response to the loss by Interior Department officials of more than 18,000 public comments on the Bush administration’s 2008 rewrite of the federal stream “buffer zone” rule … basically, the group is urging its supporters to “keep those cards and letters coming.”
We appreciate the Department of Interior’s apology and explanation for the unfortunate loss of these documents, which were misplaced possibly years ago in an agency move. We want to give reassurance that though the agency may have lost these letters, the Earthjustice supporters who wrote them have not gone anywhere. In fact, they have multiplied and are growing stronger in their commitment to this cause.
Earthjustice is proud to represent some of the most dedicated citizens and community members in the country, and we will not stop until justice and a safe, healthy environment for all is achieved. That’s why, when President Obama took office, more than 20,000 Earthjustice supporters immediately took action again to urge the administration and new leadership at the Office of Surface Mining to bring back these protections and restore the stream buffer zone rule.
Since then, Earthjustice supporters have written more than 277,000 letters to various administration agencies, demanding stronger stream and water protections for communities and an end to mountaintop removal mining. Our partners and client groups have added hundreds of thousands more to that tally. We trust all of these hundreds of thousands of letters are still in place, and we urge the Obama administration to revisit them and listen to the people.
Van Noppen continued:
In support of those dedicated people, we promise not to back down. If the government loses our letters, we will send more. If the government ignores us, we will speak louder. And if the government violates the laws that protect us, we will sue. That’s why we have reopened our lawsuit, on behalf of several Appalachian and national citizen groups, against the illegal policy that eliminated these basic stream protections, seeking to restore the safeguards that are crucial to so many families and communities in Appalachia.
Earthjustice issued this “action alert” to its supporters:
Let’s show the Department of Interior that if they weaken the laws that protect us, against our wishes, we will grow louder. Let’s show them that if they lose our letters, we will send more. Help us show the Obama administration that we are serious about protecting Appalachian communities by ending mountaintop removal mining.
And if you haven’t seen it, I’ve posted a copy of OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik’s sworn statement, filed in federal court, explaining how his agency lost 18,000 public comments on a key rulemaking matter that was the subject of ongoing litigation.