Especially in light of the overreaction to the recent chemical spill in their backyards, West Virginians are lucky to have such a sensible senator in Joe Manchin. It was Manchin who teamed up with Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to promote a bill to rein in the EPA’s overreach under the Clean Water Act. The Senate bill would restore and guarantee the proper balance between states and the federal government in a way that protects water quality. The damage which EPA regulation does to the West Virginia coal industry and the state’s people is far in excess of the collateral damage to some individuals from the poisoning of their water.
As governor, he also filed suit against the EPA over enforcement of the clean water act. “What a great day for West Virginia. I’m pleased and gratified to hear that the federal court has ruled in favor of our state, the miners who work here and the people who depend on coal for their livelihoods – and against the EPA for overstepping its boundaries,” Senator Manchin said. “As Governor, I sued the EPA because this bureaucratic agency was taking the wrong course. I remain hopeful that this court decision will put us on the path of getting the permits that we need to provide energy and jobs not just for West Virginia, but for this entire country. Looking ahead, I will work to make sure the EPA understands that it needs to work as an ally, not an adversary.”
To review the situation, on Thursday it was discovered that a tank containing the toxic 4-methylcyclohexene methanol leaked from a tank into the Elk River a mile and a half above the intake valve for the West Virginia American Water treatment facility, and to the homes of about 300,000 West Virginians. Before responding to the alert not to drink, bathe, or touch the water (good for flushing only), a number of individuals went to their doctors and hospitals complaining of nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, and other symptoms. As of today, Sunday, it is not yet clear when the water will be safe enough for the water company to start flushing the lines to people’s homes. It is expected that as the chemical flume continues flowing, it will become dilute enough not to cause issues for those downstream. Some suspect that the contamination around the tank will require containment and cleanup to prevent continued leakage into the water supply, but this is just speculation.
The recent spill is no reason for theatrics. The governor Earl Ray Tomblin is even considering revamping regulations, which would further injure the people of his state. The main considerations are that the U.S. Department of Transportation does not even consider the chemical 4-methylcyclohexene methanol hazardous (OSHA does), even though several individuals went to the hospital after exposure, and the company storing the chemical, Freedom Industries, was not subject to EPA regulation since they were merely the storers of the compound, not its manufacturers.
The federal authorities, as expected, overreacted. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said federal authorities are opening an investigation into what caused the spill, which affected Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.
“Yesterday’s release of a potentially dangerous chemical into our water supply has put hundreds of thousands of West Virginians at risk, severely disrupted our region’s economy and upended people’s daily lives,” Goodwin said in a statement. “We will determine what caused it and take whatever action is appropriate based on the evidence we uncover.”
And when we consider the cost to the economy, the businesses shut down were mainly just restaurants and hotels and their affiliate businesses, nothing that political authorities should be concerned about when we know the damage that regulations cause to significant elements of the economy, like the coal industry.