Opinion: Petitions are good. We need more than good.

Petitions are good. It shows an engaged, responsive, active, organized consensus of the people demanding change. And sometimes, not always, these efforts get results and things change.

However, petition efforts alone always run the risk of falling on deaf ears and agencies and elected officials exercising their discretionary “we don’t give a damn what you want” option.

So it is always wise to have a back up plan at the ready that works in concert with rallies, marches, petitions and can deliver a message that can’t be ignored. Our back up plan is legal notice delivered to our elected officials to do their job or else.

Here is the flaw, weakness, in asking the EPA to do their job and why it doesn’t always work. Truth be told it is not the EPA’s job to write the laws that protect and keep us and the environment safe. Their job exclusively and by law is to make rules and regulations for the industry that insure the industry is in complete compliance with the law the lawmakers write to protect us and our environment.

Lawmakers, our elected officials, write the Clean Air, Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, Resource and Conservation Acts and tell the EPA and administrative agencies in charge of those industries to write the rules and regulations that insure the industry complies to the letter with those laws.

The problem with that of course is regulatory agencies tends to operate in a nebulous under-the-radar-Bermuda-triangle-zone. No official government appointed oversight committees keeping an eye on them 24/7 making sure they are doing their job.

That is when environmental organizations like Food and Water Watch and a host of other NGO Rise and Shine and alert the communities to nefarious activity going on in their backyards because the regulatory agencies are MIA. Hence, petitions, marches, rallies and demonstrations raising awareness.

This is good but we can do better and here is how and why.

Federal Laws and Regulations

Federal laws generally apply to people living in the United States and its territories.

Congress creates and passes bills. The President then signs those bills into law. Federal courts may review these laws and strike them down if they think they do not agree with the U.S. Constitution. The Clean Air, Water, Safe Drinking Water and Resource Conservation and Recovery Acts are in full working order. No strike downs.

Federal Regulations

Regulations are issued by federal agencies, (EPA) boards, or commissions. They explain how the agency intends to carry out a law.

The Rulemaking Process

Federal regulations are created through a process known as rulemaking.

By law, federal agencies must consult the public when creating, modifying, or deleting rules in the Code of Federal Regulations. This is an annual publication that lists the official and complete text of federal agency regulations.

Once an agency decides that a regulation needs to be added, changed, or deleted, it typically publishes a proposed rule in the Federal Register to ask the public for comments.

After the agency considers public feedback and makes changes where appropriate, it then publishes a final rule in the Federal Register with a specific date for when the rule will become effective and enforceable.

When the agency issues a final rule for comment, it must describe and respond to the public comments it received.

And there it is and that is where we come in with our marches, rallies protests and petitions objecting to their total disregard of all the health and safety laws that are suspiciously absent from their final response.

But as you can see the decision has already been made at this point and hearings are a mere symbolic gesture to satisfy the public hearing laws. Telling us what they are going to do is not the same as using the information we give them to make the changes that insure our well being.

The agency decides what is within their rulemaking power to change. In this case they are changing the rules they wrote on what is regarded as ‘safe’ radioactive levels because it is what they can do. Arbitrary rulings without scientific facts are what set the environmental groups, in this case Food and Water Watch into high alert.

Rulemarkers can make exceptions to their own rules and they do that on a regular basis. They can grant exemptions and waivers to the rules because they can
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They can’t, however, change the law. That is written in stone by our lawmakers and our rights to Clean Air, Safe Drinking Water toxic free environment remains unchanged regardless of what the EPA is saying and doing.

Exemptions to those laws do not constitute an amendment which is the only thing that can change a law. Amending a law requires a very tedious and time consuming vetting process by a concerted effort from our elected officials.

Clean Air, Water, Safe Drinking Water et al remain fully in tact and unchanged.

So, why are we even having this discussion about the levels of toxic radioactive waste in our water? What does this petition have to do with us and our rights to clean, safe drinking water? The law is the law and nothing has changed. Right?

Well almost right but not quite. What is changing is EPA’s rules and regulations and how they are going to insure industry is in strict accordance with our laws.

Remember, legally EPA rules have nothing to do with us. We are not subject to them or do they change the law. EPA rules and regulations are strictly an internal, operational mechanism.

The problem is our local lawmakers and elected officials are under the delusion that the EPA rules are a substitute for the laws and therefore their job is to comply with EPA exemptions, rules and regulations.

They couldn’t be more wrong. And their act of dismissing and ignoring our rights under the law in support of a third party entity, the EPA, is so wrong it is illegal. And that is where our official legal action comes into play and in concert with the environmental organizations.

NGO environmental groups are on patrol 24/7 on our behalf making sure government agencies are doing their job enforcing rules and regulations on the industry that prevents harm to the public and environment.

They implement their discoveries with a call to action and lawsuits against the agencies. That’s one front.

Now our job, as residents and voters is to exercise our right under the law to insist our elected officials do their job or else. Their job is to make sure that any entity that has been issued an agency oil drilling, fracking, toxic waste injection exemption to our State and Federal laws is unequivocally and without hesitation denied permission to violate our rights by denying a permit to do so.

Permitting the preempting of our rights is precisely what an exemption is meant to do and is unlawful.

Preventing the violation of our rights from occurring is precisely what our elected officials are sworn to do and must do by denying any and all preemptive permits harboring exemptions. And in so doing are upholding their sworn duty to keep us safe and healthy.

So, while the environmental organizations are taking care of business on the environmental front with calls to action and lawsuits we are taking care of business on the home front. We elected our Board of Supervisors, city councils to keep us safe and free from harm and now its our job to make sure they are doing theirs.

The simple official act of noticing our Board of their sworn duty to uphold our rights under State and Federal laws removes any misconception or notion that they might have been entertaining that doing the right thing and keeping their promise to keep us safe was an option. It’s not.

They do their job or else the courts will do their job and find them in contempt of a court order. And you know what that means?

Their willful disobedience of a court order has consequences. Their governing powers could be suspended or revoked. The courts are not giving them the option to obey the law and do their job. It’s, do your job and do it right or else they are out of there.

So, petitions, marches, rallies in concert with legal notice to local elect officials is the better than good needed to kick this call to action into high gear where it needs to be.

As we fight against the ‪#‎Frackopoly‬, we can’t forget companies like Exxon, which spent decades concealing studies that show fossil fuels are killing the planet.

Sign the petition to demand that the Department of Justice investigate and, if necessary, prosecute ExxonMobil for its climate change cover-up:

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Jeanne Zindorf Blackwell
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