GOP Congress Guts Toxic Waste Clean Up Laws, As WV Struggles Without Water

Freedom Industries Gets A Free Pass On Clean Up From Republicans In Congress

The same day Freedom Industries spilled toxic waste in WV, House republicans passed a bill to eliminate the EPA’s power to enforce clean up of toxic spills – Photo of Mayflower oil spill by Ryan Liggett @KATV

On January 11th, 2013, US House republicans passed a bill that will gut toxic waste clean up regulations in the United States. H.R. 2279, otherwise known as ‘The Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act’ would basically eliminate the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose clean up deadlines, following toxic spills like the recent WV spill. The vote took place on the same day the WV chemical spill left people in 9 West Virginia counties without clean water.

The bill shifts the cost of clean up efforts onto the public.

The bill also weakens the government’s power to force corporations like Freedom Industries to carry insurance designed to cover the cost of potential clean up efforts. Republicans claim they passed the bill because protecting citizens from the harmful effects of toxic spills is just “wasteful government spending.” The bill would shift the burden of the cost of clean up after such spills away from the companies responsible, and onto the public.

President Obama promised to veto the legislation.

White House Policy Advisors came out in strong opposition to the bill, writing that:

“the bill’s requirements could result in significant site cleanup delays, endangering public health and the environment.”

President Obama has promised to veto the legislation, should it somehow pass the Senate.

Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council referred to the bill as “a New Year’s gift to corporate interests.” He stressed that the bill would force taxpayers to assume the cost of clean up, while giving corporations a free pass.

The GAO reports there are 50,000 sites that need environmental clean up.

In contrast to House Republican policy, a report issued by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May, 2013, called for tightening the rules. The report states that taxpayers have paid more than $30 billion for clean up of toxic waste sites, since 1986.

The report  also found that a majority of private industries that do contaminate land and water, are aware of the limitations of the EPA when it comes to enforcing clean up. It is common practice for private companies to cause extreme environmental damage, then close their doors, leaving the taxpayers to foot the bill for clean-up.

The GAO states that there are currently 50,000 sites in the US that have been contaminated by toxic waste, and abandoned by their former private owners. Clean up efforts at all of these sites are now the responsibility of the government, and the bill will be paid by the taxpayers.

When will republicans wake up and realize that the people they are voting for, do not have their best interests at heart?

Nearly every House Republican voted in support of HR 2279, including WV representatives, David McKinley and Shelley Capito. Only five Democrats voted in favor. Unbelievably, one of the five Democrats who supported this bill was WV’s Nick Rahall. The bill passed the House with 225 supporting votes and 188 opposing votes.

WV has only three House Representatives. Even as the President declared a state of emergency, following a toxic spill that stretched for 1500 miles, all three House Reps from WV were voting to support of a bill that would delay clean up efforts and shift the burden of the cost of clean up away from Freedom Industries and onto their constituents.

Every member of Congress that voted for this should bill should be held accountable.

Right now in WV, hundreds of thousands of people cannot bathe, brush their teeth, or even wash their hands, in the water that flows through their taps. Yet their elected representatives went to Washington the same day that Freedom Industries poisoned their water, and voted for a bill that would let the company responsible for this disaster off the hook.  The bill would prevent EPA enforcement of clean up efforts and lengthen the amount of time it takes to restore water supplies in WV. It would also allow Freedom Industries to pass the cost of clean up onto WV citizens.

Hopefully voters across the country will hold republicans accountable for this legislation. West Virginia voters, more than any others, should show up at the polls with a vengeance.