Freedom Industries might be the company to blame, but which political party is responsible for allowing it to happen?
When it comes to protecting our environment, our progressive gut reaction is that liberals want to protect the environment and all conservatives want is profits. The question is: Is this position justifiable and can it be substantiated?
In the broader sense, perhaps this position is fundamentally correct on principal. However, just for the sake of avoiding pointless and endless debate about who protects the environment and who doesn’t, I’m going to try to break down the regulations and deregulations that made the Elk River chemical spill possible. Let’s see exactly who made what policies that led to the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia.
First, it’s important to understand which regulatory agencies are involved in this accident. Any chemical storage facility anywhere in the United States has to deal with multiple regulatory agencies at the local (city/county), state and federal level and some also have to comply with tribal regulations. That’s three to four regulatory agencies, each with their own set of standards with which the company must comply.
This is what Republicans call “…cumbersome, over-the-top, and costing the economy jobs.” On the surface that statement by the Speaker Of The House sounds legitimate. However, a loose skimming of history over the past ten years at both the State and Federal level puts the blame firmly in the laps of Republican politicians.
At the state level, the spill in West Virginia happened because of regulatory agencies not communicating, the refusal of the State government to provide funding for enforcing existing regulations and what can be described as a complete lack of interest by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
In an article published by the West Virginia Gazette, their reporters found out that the state Department of Health and Human Resources received recommendations from The U.S. Chemical Safety Board after an extensive investigation of the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two workers at the Bayer Crop Science plant in Institute, West Virginia.
According to the article: “Since then, the proposal has gone nowhere. The state Department of Health and Human Resources hasn’t stepped in to provide the legal authority the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department needs to start such a program. And Kanawha County officials never funded the plan, and seldom mention that the CSB recommendation was even made.”
One has to wonder what the long-term effects of their indifference will be.
The truly sad part is that water contamination by the coal industry in West Virginia is nothing new. According to an EPA study, much of the wells and water systems have been poisoned for generations. And yet, Democrats like Joe Manchin and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, have been quick to defend the coal industry and ignore the hazards to the environment which are posed by the coal industry. See; it’s not just republicans, it’s members of both parties.
Oh, don’t worry, I can hear you out there saying “But Frank! The Republican’s record on the environment is all the proof we need!”
Yes, you are partially correct. In 2013, the Republicans in the house voted to gut environmental efforts. Yes, the Coal industry has donated more than $600,000 to The Speaker of the House and yes every single budget proposal by the Republicans since 2008 have included de-funding the EPA and the enforcement of the laws that already exist. Over the past two years funding for water quality has been slashed by 29%, and Republicans boasted they cut the EPA budget by 20% since 2010 to spur job creation which has netted zero jobs.
Yes, I realize that almost every “jobs bill” that the republicans in the House have pushed since Obama took office, tried to “create jobs” by stripping the EPA, gutting the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, and making the greatest polluters exempt from existing laws. Even if you go to the GOP’s web site they are still boasting about all of the jobs bills they’ve passed without mentioning the fact that they want to destroy the environment to create those jobs.
All of that is true and verifiable, but Republicans aren’t the problem. They sure as hell aren’t the solution, but they’re not the problem.
The problem is money and the idea that profit at any cost is more valuable than the environment. The problem is that the American people willingly stand by and let the earth around them become a toxic pool. Where are the West Virginians crying out for clean drinking water in addition to jobs? Why are we not outraged as a society over the fact that approximately 46% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming?
Frankly speaking, the issue of regulations, their enforcement and our stewardship of our environment is not the responsibility of our legislators, Democrat or Republican. It is OUR responsibility. When people want your votes, ask them how they will protect our environment or how they feel about environmental regulations. You can ask them those questions in person or through email if you live someplace they don’t visit. More importantly, once you have their answer, look at their voting record.
While it’s easy to blame Republicans, to do so relieves us of our own responsibility.