Monday, January 13, 2014

Russia Today (RT) Falsely Connects West Virginia Chemical Spill To US House Republicans (UPDATED)

January 12, 2014 - (Updated Jan. 13) - The terrible chemical spill in West Virginia last Thursday is a horrible thing. We all agree on that. But who is to blame? Well, certainly Freedom Industries is. That's the company whose chemicals tainted the local water supply for nine counties, and they're owned by the Koch Brothers. Yes, those Koch Brothers, the ones who support Republicans. But there are others to blame: The Democrats who control West Virginia's state government.

Russia Today (RT) ran a story with this incredibly misleading headline: "US House passed bill ravaging toxic-waste law - on same day as W. Virginia chemical spill."

RT wrote this: "As West Virginians were learning Thursday of a devastating chemical spill in the Elk River that has rendered water undrinkable for 300,000 people, the US House of Representatives was busy gutting federal hazardous-waste cleanup law." Emphasis is mine, and made to show you that whatever the U.S. House of Representatives was doing last Thursday had nothing whatsoever to do with what was happening at the same time in West Virginia.

The House, of course, is dominated by a Republican majority and the bill's sponsor is Colorado's Rep. Cory Gardner. Yep, Gardner is a Republican! Ooooh, those eee-vil Republicans! RT tried to link those wicked Republicans to the chemical spill. I'm sure a lot of stupid people actually fell for RT's attempt to slander the GOP. (Those who are dumb enough to fall for RT's crap probably need to be told that "GOP" is "Grand Old Party," the Republican Party's nickname.)

RT continued [emphasis mine]: "The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act that would ultimately eliminate requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to review and update hazardous-waste disposal regulations in a timely manner, and make it more difficult for the government to compel companies that deal with toxic substances to carry proper insurance for cleanups, pushing the cost on to taxpayers."

Before you go blaming Republicans, you should know that West Virginia's government is dominated by Democrats. Every WV governor since 1977 has been a Democrat.. The WV House of Delegates is dominated by Democrats. That means that as West Virginians were learning last Thursday of a devastating chemical spill in the Elk River that has rendered water undrinkable for 300,000 people, their state government was controlled by Democrats.

An excellent article in the West Virginia Gazette-Mail today notes in the headline that "State ignored plan for tougher chemical oversight." Funny, isn't it, that RT is ignoring that story? Funny, too, that the New York Times and other Left-leaning media in the U.S. haven't picked that up.

From that Gazette article [my emphasis added]:
Three years ago this month, a team of federal experts urged the state of West Virginia to help the Kanawha Valley create a new program to prevent hazardous chemical accidents.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board recommended the step after its extensive investigation of the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute.
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.
In other words, West Virginia's Democrat-dominated state government has been negligent for three years by not acting on badly needed safety measures that might well have prevented last week's chemical spill by Freedom Industries. Three years of inaction. Yet, RT lays the blame on a Republican bill that was not even law yet when the spill occurred.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal published an article on January 13 that supports my argument that Congressional Republicans had nothing to do with the chemical spill. "The industrial chemical that leaked into the river, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, isn't closely tracked by federal programs," says WSJ. "A state regulator had said earlier that, before last week's spill, environmental inspectors hadn't visited the site since 1991." WSJ also reported, "Matthew Blackwood, chairman of a county-level group that develops local emergency-response plans, said Sunday the group didn't know that stores of the chemical were sitting upriver from the area's largest water-treatment plant." More at WSJ.com.

Too little, too late? West Virginia's Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, told the press on Saturday night that he would work with the state Department of Environmental Protection to, as the Gazette article notes, consider tighter regulation of chemical storage facilities in the ongoing legislative session. They quote Tomblin as saying, "There are certain reporting things that companies have to do, and I do think we have to look at them to make sure this kind of incident does not happen again."

Inaction and More Inaction: But so far, according to the Gazette, "neither the governor's office nor the DHHR have responded to a specific question from the Gazette about whether they would move to implement the U.S. Chemical Safety Board's recommendation."

I am not trying to push the blame for the Freedom Industries chemical spill onto anybody else. After all, the WV Department of Environmental Protection has accused Freedom Industries of violating the state's Air Pollution Control Act and the Water Pollution Control Act by letting "Crude MCHM" (mainly 4-methylcyclohexane methanol) "to escape from its facility, just upstream from West Virginia American Water's regional intake in the Elk River," said the Gazette in an earlier article on Friday.

But if you're going to hold any politicians partially responsible, it makes a lot more sense to blame those closest to the problem, who have chosen for years not to enact measures that just might have prevented or mitigated the disaster. Namely, the Democrats of the West Virginia's state legislature and its governor.

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