WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Will West Virginia water contamination alter attitudes about govt. regulation?

Hundreds of thousands of West Virginians endure a fifth day without drinking water from their taps after a coal-treatment chemical contaminated H2O supplies in the Charleston area.

Talk about economic disruption: People can't use tap water for drinking or bathing. Restaurants have closed for miles around.

Yet, doubtless, anyone advocating tougher environmental regulation in West Virginia would've been dismissed as some leftie intent on crippling the coal industry.

The WALL STREET JORNAL reports the Freedom Industries chemical storage site in question operated with virtually no monitoring.

The CHARLESTON GAZETTE describes how state regulators in West Virginia dismissed pleas for stricter monitoring of chemical facilities...


Will this disruption of lives - and uncertainty about the long-term health effects - create sufficient outcry for West Virginians to reassess previous resistance to regulation, whether local, state, or Federal? Or will the coal and/or chemical industries be successful in painting this as some isolated episode, an accident?

Not if Erin Brockovich can help it. Brockovich says she and her team are going to West Virginia's capital city to look into the cause and effects.

And this story has political legs too. Looks like Koch Industries is intertwined with Freedom Industries (sounded like the name of the company had a political twist, huh?)



Posted at 7:56am on January 13, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Jan 13, 2014 8:28am
Maybe the folks of WV will realize that the excesses of the TEA party hurt them. There needs to be regulations for such things. This isn't 1787; our world has changed and given all the many times corporate greed [the Mr. Potter's from It's a Wonderful Life] have shown so many times through out our history, too little government regulation allows such tragedies to happen. Yes, too much government regulation is bad too, so getting the right balance is the key.

But when it comes to the air you breathe, the water you drink, can there be too much regulation controlling what TOXIC industrial plants can dump into our streams/rivers, or release into the atmosphere?

Bill and Kavips will probably know the name of the river, but back in 1969 there was a river that was so polluted that it actually caught fire, which the nation got to see on network TV newscasts. This was the breaking point and the real start of the envirnomental movement in the US of which the first Earth Day happened the following April 1970. So left unfettered, corporate greed would repollute our rivers back to the point they used to be. They're not perfect yet, but far better than in 1969.

The refinery releases toxic gases into our atmophere here every year, and gets some minor fine [$150K I believe] which is chump change for them. Cheaper to pay the fine than fix the problem. So it could be argued that maybe Delaware needs to make that fine far higher than it is now, so they'd realize it would be cheaper to fix the problem, which would be a win/win for all of us who breathe Delaware air.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Jan 13, 2014 8:44am
That was the Cuyahoga River, emptying into Lake Erie. (More than a dozen fires had occurred on the Cuyahoga, dating back to the 19th century!)

Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing Company actually names a beer after those episodes, Burning River Pale Ale.

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 9:29am
That's correct. And they have cleaned up the Cuyahoga River. I was in Cleveland a few years ago and had dinner at one of several riverside restaurants with decks and patios on the river. I had dinner out on the deck and watched all people on the river in small boats. The river flows into Lake Erie which was declared "dead" and now fish are back and people can swim in it again.

Meantime, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick (not far from Maine border) they are also drinking bottled water after a freight train carrying oil, butane and propane derailed and caught fire. They put the fire out over the weekend but some people still are not allowed to go home and everybody in the area has been told to drink bottled water. This follows earlier petro-train accidents in Quebec and North Dakota.

More recently, the Kalamazoo River in Michigan caught fire thanks to those people who want to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Too often corporations say the magic words, "job creation" and people and politicians roll over and disregard real safety and environmental issues. What "job creation" really means is corporate profits and executive bonuses. And bottled water.

As MFD said, with the impact of the chemical industry locally, you'd think people here would be especially sensitive to environmental and safety concerns but apparently not. Are they still storing nerve gas right across the river?

Just remember who is funding the tea party. Apparently, it doesn't take much to get some people to vote against their own self-interest.

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 12:45pm
Ban on drinking water has been lifted. Not that most Ridge Runners care much. Moonshine was never affected.
Reportedly, the chemical leak started when a power mountaineer, who barely kept his family fed, was out shooting at some food, and up through the ground came a bubbling ...

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 8:14pm
You asked will it create a change? I think all of 2013 created a change in the public. All the Tea party and former Republican talking points ring hollow. People are mad at conservative philosophies even if they like the people themselves....

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 8:32pm
Regulate all you want. Stuff still happens. Look at Delaware City. Erin Brockovich is an environmental busy body.

By the way, I'm funding the TEA party and refuse to send any money to the Republican establishment until they get out of bed with the Democrats.

Tue, Jan 14, 2014 5:51am
To further explain my point, the left along with their media accomplices always find an isolated case of malfeasance and then sensationalize it by exaggerating how widespread it is when it isn't. This is no different from the gun control lobby using a school shooting as an excuse to take guns from law-abiding citizens. Yeah, the operators of this coal mine probably oughta go to prison but that doesn't mean that all coal-mining everywhere is contaminating groundwater. Do something about this particular instance and stay out of everybody else's business.

Tue, Jan 14, 2014 7:03am
Sure, stuff happens. It happens a lot less because of regulation and a lot more without it. Without regulation, malfeasance is routine. People will act to maximize their own advantage.

I see a PIG, not just an ordinary cop, but a retired SWAT captain, got out his pistol in a Florida movie theater and killed the guy sitting in front of him and injured the guy's wife. Why? For texting his daughter during the previews. I suppose you think it's too bad they both didn't guns, so they could shoot more people. Too bad everybody in Wilmington doesn't have guns, too. I bet the stand-your-ground lawyers will have fun with one.

You like the corporate sector so much, Pizza? Go work for it. You keep preaching how everybody is a sinner but somehow corporate types are such nice people. They won't put out poison just to put a few more bucks in their own pockets, oh no!

They are not your friends, Pizza. They chuckle at how easily manipulated you are. All they have to do is get you angry at somebody other than them.

Don't forget, it's coal-mine owners who operate this very radio station.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jan 14, 2014 8:36am
Mrpizza: you said look at Delaware City. Yes I cited that earlier. The regs are NOT strict enough, the fine is puny, so the owners of the refinery apparently consider paying that approx $150K fine as a cost of doing business, no big deal. For you and I $150K is lots of money, but to the oil industry??? So the reg is needed, but in this particular case needs to be stronger, a far larger fine. Billsmith is correct, they are NOT yours or my friend.

Gov Markell as well as other leaders in each state want industry to come to their state so folks can have jobs. It's become a "bargaining" game. The corporate big shots sitting in their "smoked filled rooms" and play the game of we'll come to YOUR state IF the people of YOUR state GIVE US and then they list their demands [they still probably still do smoke cigars over brandy in some corporate board rooms, they just don't invite the lower peons and any PC types who'd flip out - OK the smoked filled room is simply a metaphor, but I digress]. Think Astra-Zenica and all those roads we paid to add plus whatever tax breakes they recieved [corporate welfare]. Then they up and relocated I believe to Connecticut where they apparently got a better deal.

Think Fisker and Blue Water Wind, etc. I wonder what deals the State of Delaware had to make to get this newest owner of the refinery in Del City to reopen it so folks could be employed in some of the best paying jobs in the state?

Again as Billsmith said, Mrpizza these corporations are NOT our friends. They are simply a means to an end. They make stuff we need as a society [oil/gasoline/kerosene for our cars and homes. So we buy them, but we can't allow them to do whatever they'd want or this planet would soon become even worse than it is now pollution wise.

Look at recent photos of China where pollution is so bad the citizens are wearing masks and having a difficult time in breathing, etc, because they have few if any regulations [one reason these same corporations move to those nations and take former American jobs there]. THAT's why we need government to have regs to control what these self centered, greedy corporations do.

This isn't 1787, we have industry now, they didn't. You can't expect the government to operate as it did when Delaware became a state, yet some within the TEA movement would love that. They are delusional. Again balance. Sure no one wants too much government regs, but we need more than the TEA folks want, for the reasons I've just discussed above.

Tue, Jan 14, 2014 8:56am
MFD: To use your phrase, "well said." Reading your post reminded me of road trips I took with my parents when I was a kid. Driving past Pittsburgh on the PA Turnpike, I remember the sky was always completely Black (no matter what the weather was). And the car was dirty after going through. I can only imagine the health problems of people who had to breathe that stuff. I've read similar - or worse - descriptions of London. Corporations will just dump their waste into the air, water or ground - unless somebody stops them. Like people who dump their trash by the side of the road except on a much larger scale. It's cheap. It's easy. What, me worry?

Notice corporate suits don't live in Delaware City. They don't even put executive offices there.

Tue, Jan 14, 2014 10:52pm
I saw a post on WV and can't find it right now quickly, but it effectively compared West Virginians to abused step-children with Coal and Industry being the abusive parents. As a child would not be wont to cross an abusive parent, so does the government of WV tread lightly in its dealings with coal and chemicals.

That site that spilled was last inspected in 1991. Furthermore, it was just sold, merged, or something a few days ago. The corporate trail is hazy.

I tried following it through private sources, and gave up. I don't believe the spokesperson on TV saying he was sorry is the real owner now... The answer to who owns it, is buried in the Cayman Islands right now.

Anyways, WV has to live, as does a child of abusive parents, with a horror most of us will never know, and can fail to imagine. The laws are bent so far to accommodate those parasites, that one lives in fear; they may react in anger at something else, and strike you...

It is in cases like this where outside agencies are needed. As with abuse, outside organizations need to come in and take over, because what is left is broken beyond repair...

We hear people cry about regulation. However we always live with regulation. That is the cost of living with other people... There are boundaries that must be enforced for public safety. Systemically over this decade, Republicans have whittled down the EPA. It is time to make the EPA stronger and give that agency subpoena power, and the ability to imprison anyone who dares question their authority...

For those who argue that deregulation makes the economy stronger by giving businesses more money; in this case, all that got stronger through deregulation, was the owners' addiction to cocaine...

(Again it's easily googled, but I don't have the link available at the moment.)

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 3:00am
In PC Land, everything is about race. Not socio-economic status. Poor Whites face the same problems as Poor Blacks but don't have a "race card" to play and don't get anywhere near the same kind of attention and concern. There's yet another "double-standard" at work. If Blacks are poor, it's discrimination. If Whites are poor, it's their own damn fault and who cares? If this draws some attention to what life is like in Appalachia and issues common to all people in the underclass, maybe some good will come out of it.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 3:59am
Hey Bill: I've been working for the corporate sector. What do you think Domino's is anyway?

As for the theater shooting in Florida, I hope the retired cop gets to visit old sparky. That's wishful thinking, though. Al Sharpton won't be visiting Florida this time around because the victim is the wrong color.

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 9:45am
Pizza: I thought your primary and full-time employment was for the USPS. And isn't the USPS providing you with pension, health coverage, and all the other benefits where real private-sector employees are getting screwed? Doesn't Domino's make a point of hiring part-timers (who have to use their own cars for delivery) just so they don't have to provide benefits?

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 7:01pm
Hey Bill, we've been through this before. First of all, God is my provider. These jobs are just a means. And unless you want to pay $25 minimum for a small pizza, you'd better be glad Domino's "screws" their employees. It's designed to be an entry-level job or an "extra money" job. Another word would be "transitory".

Wed, Jan 15, 2014 7:04pm
Mike From Delaware: While I generally agree with most of what you've said here, you can't say that anybody has been hurt by the so-called excesses of the TEA party. The TEA party is in the minority and can only make noise. The TEA party presently has no power to make policy decisions.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jan 16, 2014 6:43am
Mrpizza : They are making policy by obstructing the Congress from getting anything done. They've decided that even though they lost the election, they can force their will on the rest of us. The government shutdown is an example. They were wrong to do this.

Thu, Jan 16, 2014 7:36am
"First of all, God is my provider."

Gee, Pizza. Why work, then? Just go out in the morning and collect manna off the bushes. You complain about welfare (for people only, not corporations). How come your god isn't providing for those people? It would save the rest of us a lot of money. Better mention that to him/her/it. Also remind him/her/it that people keep praying to him/her/it for protection. We could save even more by shutting down the Defense Department and letting god smite our enemies for us. But he/she/it isn't doing a very good job of that either.

"And unless you want to pay $25 minimum for a small pizza, you'd better be glad Domino's "screws" their employees. "

In your version of the Christian ethic, it's OK if somebody else gets screwed as long as you think you benefit. Maybe Domino's could provide decent pay and benefits at a reasonable cost, if so much weren't going to multi-million-dollar salaries, benefits and stock options for the corporate suits, to fancy buildings and offices, to buying professional sports teams, to opposing reproductive freedom and marriage equality, to political campaigns, to overpaying to buy radio stations which lose money... Heck, maybe Domino's could even make a decent pizza, too.

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