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After several weeks of near daily calls to her office, I was invited to meet with my congressional representative, Barbara Comstock, to discuss her stance on environmental issues. As an analyst and researcher in global renewable energy and climate change with more than thirty years experience, I was determined to speak to her about her vote to repeal the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, energy efficiency, and climate change.

Although these areas don’t align well with her background, as representative it is her responsibility to educate herself on key arguments on both sides to inform her votes on diverse topics such as these. I was not impressed.

The SPR was aimed at protecting hundreds of miles of streams from mining waste. Representative Comstock joined other House Republicans in urging fellow representatives to repeal the rule, on the basis that it would hurt coal jobs. In fact, the coal industry’s steady decline is largely due to cheap natural gas, declining markets, and mechanization. Repealing the SPR will not save the coal industry – it merely condemns people in Appalachia and other coal mining areas to live with polluted sources of drinking water, putting them at higher risk for cancer.  What her constituents need, desperately, are 21st century options and opportunities to expand their skill sets and preserve the health of their communities.  Instead they are offered sound bites and short sighted legislation that, in the long run, will only seal their doom.

There was a similarly alarming evident lack of understanding right across the range of issues discussed. Representative Comstock needs to educate herself on the facts and listen objectively to the concerns of her constituency regardless of whether those views jibe with her own. As it is, she simply demonstrates a rote parroting of Republican party dogma. The overall impression one is left with is that of a Luddite.

On the other hand, this conforms to the brand and disappointingly comes as little surprise. It is likely that she is familiar with the issues—if not the science or implications thereof—and has simply decided that her primary allegiance is to the Republican Party (and its funders). In fact, her primary role is to serve the people of the 10th Congressional District of Virginia and more broadly, the people of the United States. We need to remind her.

Kathleen Nawaz

Virginia Democracy Forward

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