Whither EPA?

In Obama’s Q&A with the House last week, W.Virginia Rep Shelley Moore Capito asked what Obama was doing to keep energy jobs in that state:

We’re resource rich. We have a lot of coal and a lot of natural gas. But our —
my miners and the folks who are working and those who are unemployed are very
concerned about some of your policies in these areas: cap-and-trade, an
aggressive EPA and the looming prospect of higher taxes. In our minds, these are
job-killing policies.

What struck the most discordant tone for me was the phrase “an aggressive EPA”. I recalled an article my friend (and W. Virginia native) Rachel sent me several months ago, part of the NYT’s series Toxic Waters. It’s hard to walk away from the article thinking that the EPA shouldn’t step up its “aggression”, big-time, especially in West Virginia. In the past few years, the EPA stopped enforcing many Clean Water Act violations meant to protect people from water polluted with industrial chemicals.

For instance, three coal companies — Loadout, Remington Coal and Pine Ridge, a
subsidiary of Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world —
reported to state officials that 93 percent of the waste they injected near this
community had illegal concentrations of chemicals including arsenic, lead,
chromium, beryllium or nickel. Sometimes those concentrations exceeded legal
limits by as much as 1,000 percent. Those chemicals have been shown to
contribute to cancer, organ failures and other diseases. But those companies
were never fined or punished for those illegal injections, according to state
records. They were never even warned that their activities had been noticed…
“We are outmanned and overwhelmed, and that’s exactly how industry wants us,”
said one (EPA) employee who requested anonymity for fear of being fired. “It’s
been obvious for decades that we’re not on top of things, and coal companies
have earned billions relying on that.”

West Virginia has many problems, but an over-zealous EPA certainly isn’t one of them.

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