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Tomblin’s water pollution rhetoric

March 6, 2014

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. What do you think was on his mind?


According to a news release from the governor’s office, the governor gave McCarthy an update on the state’s remediation efforts at the Freedom Industries site and shared some platitudes about how grateful he is for help from the EPA.


So grateful, apparently, he then went on to reiterate the tired anti-regulatory rhetoric that West Virginians can recite by heart:


“We understand the importance of environmental stewardship and are committed to preserving our state’s beauty for generations to enjoy,” Gov. Tomblin said. “We also understand the importance of a hard day’s work, but up to this point, I believe there has not been sufficient consideration of the real life adverse consequences of economically unfeasible greenhouse gas regulations on West Virginia and many other states. An unreasonable regulatory structure could destabilize our once reliable power grid, increase energy costs to vulnerable ratepayers, further burden industrial employers, and devastate coal mining families and communities.”


An unreasonable regulatory structure?


Heaven forbid what Tomblin considers a reasonable regulatory structure. One that fails to safeguard the drinking water for 300,000 people? One that allows black coal slurry to spill into streams? One that allows miners to be crushed to death?


Tomblin’s comments were part of an offer to help the EPA craft greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants — rules that would be palatable to the coal industry. Tomblin’s DEP Secretary Randy Huffman says the offer was an attempt to get away from the typical rhetoric from West Virginia officials, who like to deny that climate change is happening, that human activity is causing it and that emission reductions are needed.


If that’s so, you really can’t tell it from the governor’s words.


West Virginians need their elected leaders, conducting the people’s business in their name, to protect the air, water and land for future generations, so there will be an economy here now and long after the coal is played out.


Yet, Gov. Tomblin, following in the footsteps of former Gov. Joe Manchin, seems to embrace this false choice — that West Virginians can have jobs or clean air and water, but not both …


Tomblin, like many before him, seems to believe that environmental protection is OK, as long as it doesn’t actually interfere with anyone’s polluting convenience. So, what kind of greenhouse gas emission limits could the EPA expect him to support?


— Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette