In Post-Spill West Virginia: Polluters' Input Welcome, Health Advocates Shut Out
Seeking the opinions of ‘stakeholders’ for new proposed legislation meant to prevent future toxic chemical leaks like the January 9 Elk River spill, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin invited a host of industry leaders and trade associations to weigh in.
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However, notably absent from the talks were any environmentalists or public health officials, according to an investigative report by the Charleston Gazette published Tuesday.
West Virginia journalist Ken Ward Jr. reports:
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“If you want a bill that protects clean water, you should probably listen to people who advocate for clean water, not the polluters,” said West Virginia Sierra Club leader Jim Kotcon at a public hearing Monday night.
At the same meeting, West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton said that he and other industry leaders “stand ready to offer our resources and expertise” in crafting the legislation.
The Gazette learned of the Jan. 20 closed-door meeting through documents released in a Freedom of Information Act Request about the proposed legislation.
The bill reportedly creates a new regulatory program for aboveground chemical storage tanks—such as the Freedom Industries tanks from which 10,000 gallons of coal cleaning chemicals spilled into the regional water supply.
Also included in the documents were “email messages in which several prominent industry lawyers and lobbyists offered suggestions for the governor’s legislation,” Ward reports.
Both the governor’s bill, introduced on Jan. 22, and one passed a week later by the state Senate included versions of those recommendations.
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