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A right to clean air, water, soil 

PFAS is just the most recent example of a government that allows companies to put profit over safety

In the article "Chemical conundrum" (Feb. 1), all I see is a lot of passing the buck, lawyers getting rich from all the suing going on, delays, more delays, misdirection, and no recognized authority ready, willing, and able to take charge of this screwed up mess and make it right. It could all have been avoided if enforcement of manufacturing and safety laws were followed.

The manufacturers knew before the 1970s what the effects of PFAS could be on people, places, and things, without a doubt. How could they not? So, what happened? Regulators in charge of verifying and certifying the safety of these products failed to do their job and allowed them to go to market cloaked in secrecy. Lawmakers looked the other way. That's their job.

It seems as a nation, we have perfected the art of escaping and avoiding responsibilities for wrongdoing and relish pimping out our principles and ethics as something to be proud of. We act not from a position of prevention and protection with an abundance of caution because of a deep abiding love and respect for ourselves and each other, but rather, we act out of a deep, disdain and resentment for any rules and laws that threaten the bottom line.

Regulating PFAS diminishes profits. Our representatives and our leaders regard people and the environment as a bother and inconvenience to be dismissed and ignored at all costs. PFAS is just the tip of the iceberg. How long do we have to live with the consequences of this travesty?

Remember Hinkley, where PG&E dumped chromium 6 into the local water supplies with permission and knowledge of the local, state, and federal officials? Convictions and suing for damages didn't fix it. At least not in a timely lifesaving manner. Thirty-one years later, and they are still working on cleaning it up. Prevention is the cure. What about Flint, Michigan? Still not safe.

What about the Arroyo Grande oil field? Are they dumping chemicals into the aquifer? Who knows? The Board of Supervisors never required Sentinel Peak get the EPA-mandated Underground Injection Control permit to dump hazardous waste into our backyard. Which means we don't know what they are dumping or where. Elected unsupervised officials granted the industrial complexes dispensation from compliance with health and safety regulations for our protection and benefit. Self-regulation is official permission to use and abuse safety and health guidelines.

What about Diablo? There is enough evidence to show that extended operation of Diablo Canyon is not needed to keep the lights on! The once-through cooling system at Diablo Canyon violates federal law. The facility circulates 2.5 billion gallons of seawater throughout its cooling system each day. The water released back into the ocean is 20 degrees warmer. It annually sucks in and kills more than 1 billion fish in their early life stages. The State Water Resources Control Board has allowed several waivers to the Clean Water Act by permitting the continued operation of Diablo Canyon. PG&E is a convicted felon—it pleaded guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter for the Camp Fire in 2018. The utility company has been blamed for dozens of wildfires due to improperly maintained infrastructure. Putting a dying industry on a lifeline defies reason and common sense. And yes, it is criminal.

(Clarification: A representative from the State Water Resources Control Board requested that New Times clarify the information included in this paragraph. According to the state water board, Blackwell mischaracterizes the entity that was responsible for extending operation of the Diablo Canyon power generating station. The Legislature extended the once-through cooling policy compliance dates to 2030 by passing SB 846. In 2023, the state water board approved an amendment to its once-through cooling policy to ensure that it is in accordance with SB 846.)

None of this makes any sense from a moral and ethical perspective. Killing ourselves and our living, breathing environment for what? For nothing. Is it worth it? What do we do when lawmakers break the law? We have a right to clean air, water, and soil and to be safe in our backyard, and our elected officials have a duty and responsibility to provide it.

Doing the right thing is not an option. It is the only thing.

It is our job as law-abiding, peace-loving citizens, friends, and neighbors to make sure our elected officials understand that we take our rights very seriously and expect nothing less from them. It's easy to do when your heart is in the right place. And just for the record: "The safety of the people is the supreme law." Δ

Jean'ne Blackwell writes to New Times from San Luis Obispo. Write a response for publication and email it to [email protected].

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