COMMENT By Bob Weaver

West Virginian's should be accustomed to chemical and coal companies not reporting spills, fires, and disasters to emergency responders and the public in a timely manner.

The list is long, now including the chemical spill on the Elk River at Freedom Works, a short distance from the intake pipe for American Water that affected the water supply of 300,000 customers.

There's lots of noisy hubris after such events, followed by "cat and mouse" games regarding reporting and responsibility, West Virginians being held hostage for jobs.

See WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING - State's Chemical Companies Follow Own Safety Plans, Bayer CropScience Folding Their Tent

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After each incident or disaster politicos make profound statements about the tragedy, weep with the survivors, and in some cases assuming responsibility to see it never happens again.

I've experienced the hubris going to disasters since the 1970s.

In the current Freedom Works spill in Charleston, Washington's Congressional delegation has been rather silent, they having been on the fast track to deregulate the EPA and other agencies that are destroying the coal and chemical industries.

Most have all been on board for further environmental and safety deregulation over the "War on Coal," while saying they always want to protect the health and safety of West Virginians.

Meanwhile, state, local and federal agencies are generally excusing themselves or blaming others for a lack of oversight of Freedom Works, apparently the last examination of the plants facilities was in 1991, a facility whose emergency spill reservoirs have long crumbled.

Now, Freedom Works, being cited after the fact, is also being cited for safety and hazard violations at their facility where they now have transferred the toxic chemicals.

Freedom Works, in a press statement, is blaming the recent arctic temperatures (freezing) for the spill, ie Mother Nature, falling into what we have written for many years as the "Act of God" defense.

In this water poisoning case, cautious people would think that the protection of Elk River water would have been pretty important, short distances above the intake pipe of a water company that serves the 300,000 people.

In the news this week is a court case involving the Sago mine disaster that killed 12 miners in 2006.

The issue was over the coal company being cited regarding the delay in reporting the disaster, an earlier decision finding them not at fault. Now a judge is saying the fines need to be re-instituted.

MSHA's citations for "unwarrantable failure and high negligence," assessed the coal company, penalties of $1,500 and $13,000, are now back in the court. Maybe the outfit can have a bake sale to pay the fines.

House Speaker John Boehner blamed the Obama administration, saying he needs to do a better job of enforcing safety regulations designed to protect the public against disasters like the chemical spill into West Virginia's drinking water supply.

Boeher told reporters there are enough safety and health regulations on the books, while at the same time his party has been campaigning to de-fund the EPA and deregulate health and safety rules that are hurting American businesses.

Boeher said the Obama administration should be doing more and that someone should be held accountable for the spill, the GOP considering the regulations too burdensome and costing jobs.

There may well be too many regulations, but in tracking and reporting such disasters, I have relearned time and again that the enforcers themselves play a "cat and mouse" game and the companies generally continue their same practices.

One could assume, with further deregulation, more of our families could wrap the shroud of sickness and death about them an lie down to peaceful dreams.


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Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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