Stay vigilant and demand accountability to protect public health

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Becoming the mother to my twin four-year old girls was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. But, of course, some of the most challenging things are often the most rewarding, and it is at the times of intense pressure and high stakes that we learn what we are made of and how deep we can dig to accomplish the most daunting and important of jobs.

Making a life for a family in Montana brings a unique set of challenges. It requires the trade-off of many certainties for the chance to carve out a life that is aligned with our values. Montanans understand the importance of a strong work ethic, of doing the right thing, and that our actions speak louder than words. Our communities depend economically on our state’s natural resources for agriculture, timber harvesting, recreation, tourism and for clean air and water. The nature of our small cities and towns require a level of human connection and transparency that few other places in this country have been able to maintain.

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, the current climate is dizzying. It’s hard not to want to bury your head to hide from the constant stream of political sensationalism. But now more than ever, we need to ensure our eyes are wide open, and that our elected officials support policies that protect the health of Montana children, families and the environment that is so critical to our lifestyles and livelihoods.

As a member of Moms Clean Air Force, I had the opportunity to meet with both of our senators in Washington D.C. Both Sen. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester assured me they would act to protect our public health and the land, water and air that is so critical to the livelihood and lifestyle for Montana families. Not more than three hours later, I watched a live-stream presentation where Sen. Daines enthusiastically applauded a newly-minted Executive Order slashing EPA’s funding, in part by cutting off funds that were intended to support the agency’s efforts to clean up Superfund sites.

While I’m not naive to politics, the stark difference in the two messages — private and public — shocked me and also reminded me that Montanans must be vigilant in our responsibility to demand accountability from our elected representatives.

As a small business owner, I understand the importance of carefully budgeting to get the job done. Did you know that Montana has 17 hazardous waste sites on the EPA’s National Priority List for the Superfund program? Yet, Trump’s full budget is expected to cut EPA’s funding by 30 percent, including a 25 percent cut to the Superfund program. In April 2017, Sen. Daines recognized the struggle of the people of Libby against the tragic effects of decades of asbestos mining in their community. But by supporting deep cuts to the EPA’s budget, he’s not protecting families in Libby. In fact, he’s doing the opposite. Meanwhile communities like Anaconda, Libby, Butte and Livingston will live with potential health impacts from Superfund sites.

Extreme budget cuts dramatically reduce states’ ability to ensure safe drinking water; undermine the agency’s ability to enforce rules that protect Montana’s air and water; and virtually eliminate regional programs to clean up Superfund sites like the one in Libby. Sen. Daines has said he’s in favor of public health, and that “clean air is critical” here in Montana. But by supporting President Donald Trump’s plan to gut the EPA, he’s undermining Montana children, and their future.

Our representatives are elected to represent Montanans in D.C. We are united by the fact that we live, work and recreate in a place with clean air, clean water and access to public lands. It is our right, written into our state constitution. When politicians take actions that threaten the values that make Montana unique, we have to be vigilant and informed, and hold our representatives accountable.

Our children need clean water to drink and swim in, clean air to breathe, open land to explore and help sustain them. And they need enforcement of health and climate safeguards that are proactive and protect our future generations. That is why the EPA exists, and upholding those commitments to Montanans is what we expect our representatives to do.

Sen. Daines, please support policies that protect our public health and our environment.

Kelly Ramirez is a Bozeman mom, a small business owner and a member of Moms Clean Air Force, a community of parents united against air pollution and climate change issues with an aim to protect children’s health.

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