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Jim Sconyers: Evolution Of The Water Crisis

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last Week: "Never Again!"

This Week: "Business As Usual."

The water crisis in the Kanawha Valley is easing -- not gone by any means, but easing. At least the water is turned back on.

Remember all the high-flown rhetoric by the "leaders?"

"This is unacceptable!"

"Every citizen deserves to know that their water is safe and healthy!"

"We must see that nothing like this can ever happen again!"

"It's not coal!"

Proving once again that talk is cheap.

Well, that was then, this is now. Now I hear the tramp of lobbyist shoe leather in the halls of the Capitol. I hear their whispers in the ears of their favorite lawmakers. I see those lawmakers giving the corporate flacks the warm welcome they've become accustomed to. "Come on in, fellas. Tell me what to put in my bill."

We had hoped for better. We had hoped that for once corporate West Virginia would look at something besides their bottom line. We had hoped that "corporate ethics" would finally amount to something more than an oxymoron. We had hoped that poisoning a third of a million of our citizens would wake up industry to a greater responsibility -- the responsibility to put our safety and health first. But we apparently have some slow learners in the boardrooms and legislative offices, and it appears that we were wrong to hope for "lessons learned."

The bills we've seen so far are grossly inadequate. Some barely pass the laugh test. Sen. John Unger's bill, at least, applies to all tanks holding anything besides water, anywhere. But beyond that it is woefully lacking. Gov. Tomblin's bill only applies to some substances, in some tanks, in some places. Loopholes big enough to roll a tank full of poison through. It is wonderfully protective -- of the coal and gas and chemical industries.

We had hoped for better. We can do better. The time is now for serious, comprehensive regulation, with meaningful enforcement, of all tanks storing anything anywhere in West Virginia. Can we learn the lessons of the Charleston crisis? We must.

Sconyers, of Terra Alta, is president of West Virginia Energy Savers.  

 


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