The vaunted capacity of enlightened corporations to do better than government to protect the public interest in clean, safe water just cracked a big leak in West Virginia.
Here is the most curious omission in media coverage of the West Virginia pollution disaster: how politics in West Virginia harbors antipathy to the very environmental regulations that ought to protect the state’s drinking water.
It is also an outstanding example how politics have consequences like those depriving 300,000 people in Charleston of safe drinking water. It is almost as though the media — that knows no boundaries when it comes to matching mayhem to eyeballs — has discovered in the underbrush of West Virginia politics a tragedy that is too horrible: the indelicate matter of voters supporting choices that undermine their own existence.
Curious, too, the media has no difficulty macerating an event in New Jersey that is similarly totemic: traffic flow on the George Washington Bridge traffic constipated by political ambition. Arguably the Elk River in West Virginia represents the same theme of politics making mince-meat of citizen safety with a significantly more dire outcome. Yet the media holds its nose.
Although both US Senators from West Virginia are Democrats, they are a leaden part of the Democratic majority in the Senate that exposes the American public to the worst of right-wing extremism against environmental regulation.
West Virginia is a poor state. Poverty indexes put the state near the very bottom. So when a story like the Elk River, that bears an eery familiarity to the burning rivers of the industrial midwest that spurred in the 1970’s the first federal environmental laws, emerges: one struggles for interpretation more clear than a poor state subject to most unfortunate, unavoidable calamity. That is exactly what is playing out on nightly network news.
Not a word either from Fox News how environmental rules might have reached to protect Charleston’s drinking water from the owners of the coal-industry company. The Politburo in the Soviet Union had the Soviet era organ called Pravda to selectively inform Russians. That pretty much defines Fox News, when it comes to the environment and the importance of regulations. Where is the indignation? Where is the outcry? Where is the investigation of the evisceration of the EPA’s enforcement authority?
Although the federal EPA — the bogeyman of the right-wing — is not implicated in the Elk River disaster, the shadow cast over a city incapable of delivering clean water to citizens invites full disclosure.
According to news reports, even though the tanks were decades beyond their useful life, the catastrophic pollution event awaits dilution and time. Thus it is with pollution in the United States.
The name of the company responsible for the catastrophe in West Virginia: Freedom Industries.
Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org