While Webster University’s Students for Environmental Sustainability (WSES) experiences significant gains in the political spectrum of campus life, the St. Louis area is not so fortunate. This past week, Washington, Mo., lost a two-year battle against Ameren UE when Franklin County voted to allow the energy company to dispose coal ash in a landfill off the Missouri River. Coal ash — a waste product from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels for energy — can contain traces of arsenic, lead, mercury and dioxins, among many other harmful chemicals.
We at The Journal don’t claim to be geniuses. But even we understand that placing potentially dangerous waste products near a water source that provides thousands of St. Louis-area residents with drinking water is probably a bad idea. The Journal sympathizes with the Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), who petitioned, presented and picketed against Ameren for years. Thankfully the group still has some time before construction begins on the landfill — Ameren hopes that the coal ash dump will be functioning by late 2013, but they still have many zoning clearances and votes ahead of them. Perhaps WSES can jump in to help LEO continue their campaign now that the going is getting tough.
The student group has gotten Webster’s Student Government Association on board with them now, thanks to some smooth maneuvering and campaigning. SGA decided last week to take part in a movement sending petitions to President Barack Obama denouncing the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. When environmental issues arise in our own state, the sustainability students at Webster should be clamoring to get involved. The Journal could argue that the purpose of SGA is to represent Webster student’s needs and procure the best student experience possible — a platform that doesn’t necessarily include pushing for clean energy by 2030 or taking part in government environmental policy.
But perhaps SGA can guard both the nation’s natural resources and needs of the student population. Any way you look at it, the Ameren coal ash dump is just another sign that American government is becoming increasingly more focused on making money and short-term solutions instead of listening to the wishes of the people. And as our Congress continues to debate defunding the Envrionmental Protection Agency, the signs have become clear that clean air and water are not priorities for the establishment. The Journal is disheartened by LEO’s loss and hopes to see St. Louis stand up for their right to drink water free of pollutants. Furthermore, The Journal stands in support of organizations battling corruption and abuse of the natural world everywhere.