CHARLESTON, W.Va. January 26, 2014–The recent chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without water has raised questions about the commitment of the state’s elected leaders to protect the environment of its constituents.
Despite the fact that every leader demands accountability and promises to take steps to prevent any future contaminations, the financial benefits of supporting the coal and chemical industries means,most likely, it will be business as usual in West Virginia.
Less than a week after the spill, Senator Manchin told the people attending an event sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity that he would continue to fight back against proposed new E.P.A. regulations on coal. Just one day before the spill, Governor Tomblin promised in his State of the State address to “never back down from the E.P.A.”
Since both Manchin and Tomblin receive substantial campaign financing from the coal and chemical industry, it should come as no surprise the two politicians remain committed to protecting the interests of the two industries despite their devastating impact on the West Virginia environment.
Adding insult to injury, last Thursday, the West Virginia Senate Natural Resources Committee voted to weaken water quality standards. The committee voted unanimously to change standards for the amount of aluminum allowed in streams.
Rather than maintain the current fixed standard of the amount of aluminum allowed in waterways, the committee voted for the level of allowable aluminum to be indexed to the water’s hardness value.
A host of environmental groups including the Sierra Club said this will further weaken water quality standards and water protection in the state. But beyond that, the arrogance displayed by the West Virginia Senate Natural Resources Committee is another example of how the people in charge of protecting West Virginians continue to ignore the concerns of their constituents.
Until West Virginians decide to vote the foxes out of the hen house, nothing will change.