West Virginia, not exactly the bluest of blue states despite having two Democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor, has an extremely lax regulatory environment for miners and material extraction companies. In fact, of the “48 most dangerous mines in America” listed here, West Virginia is home to half. Literally, 24 of the 48 most dangerous mines in America can be found in West Virginia, the country’s 37th most populous state, and this is pretty much entirely because powerful mining interests have hired lobbyists to persuade their representatives to loosen regulations over the years.
Many readers will remember the Freedom Industries oil spill that loosened 10,000 gallons of an oil-cleaning chemical agent into local water supplies, poisoning drinking water in the state’s capital for upwards of a week. Well, that spill is still not cleaned up yet, but no worries! Freedom Industries will, of course, declare bankruptcy in order to avoid the vast majority of its debts and fines, and restructure, unhurt, under a different and ridiculous patriotic sounding name.
But before the Freedom Industries spill could even be cleaned up, another patriotic sounding energy company out of West Virginia, this time “Patriot Coal” has had an accident. A few days ago, 108,000 gallons of “coal slurry”- basically a toxic mixture of coal, rocks, water, and oil, leaked into a creek in eastern Kanawha county that feeds into the Kanawha River. Luckily, the nearest intake area for human drinking water is about 100 miles away from this remote location, but the same can not be said for the wildlife living in the area.
As one official put it, “I don’t think there’s really anything to it. It turned out to be much of nothing.”
But no-just kidding! As the Charlestown Gazette reported:
“This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill. When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out.”
Like I said above, in a state like West Virginia, these companies are free to hire workers for way too little, fail to protect them in the workplace, fail to protect the citizens and ecology of the state they operate in, and then, when something goes wrong, they declare bankruptcy and wash their hands of most of the debt. If you or me decide to do something as wacky as go to an expensive private institution on loans, and fail to pay back the bills, leading to personal bankruptcy? Forget about it, your life is over- good luck getting a mortgage, hell, these days good luck even getting a JOB with employers doing credit checks on most new hires!
That’s just how it works when 99% of your elected representatives on both sides of this aisle are bought and paid for by big business. It really is gaulling, though, to hear these corporate titans screaming about personal responsibility and postulating that if poor people would just stop taking hand-outs from the government, they would gain the motivation to finally put in an honest day’s work.