Friday, January 17, 2014

Country Roads

The spill in West Virgina is not the first nor the last as we already know. This is one of many. The most recent explosion in Texas, the BP explosion in the Gulf, the Exxon Valdez and need I go on and on with regards to the history and legacy that chemical companies have left in search of energy.

Energy. Isn't that what all this is about? The price, the cost and the profit of energy. Yet alternative energy is literally and figuratively a back burner issue. Well once Rome burned it was rebuilt and the second time is always the sweetest. We can thank Nero who fiddled but actually came up with the idea of cement or concrete and that is one lasting legacy. Burn baby burn.

This is from the op ed section today...

The chemical spill that cut off water to more than 300,000 people in West Virginia for several days has exposed serious defects in state and federal environmental protections that allow many facilities and chemicals to escape scrutiny.

Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly how an estimated 7,500 gallons of a chemical used to clean coal called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, leaked from a storage facility into the Elk River. But state and federal agencies clearly should have done more to limit the risks. For starters, the state failed to adequately inspect how the facility stored chemicals, though it did send inspectors there to check on air quality. The chemicals were kept in tanks on the riverbank, upstream from a large water-treatment plant that supplies Charleston.

The spill is the third major chemical accident in the region in five years. State lawmakers and regulators in West Virginia have a long history of coddling the coal and chemical industries, which dominate the state’s economy. According to a 2009 investigation by The Times, companies that pollute state waters are rarely fined. And state officials have so far ignored a 2011 proposal from the federal Chemical Safety Board urging new rules to prevent industrial accidents and spills. That recommendation came after an explosion at a chemical plant near Charleston that killed two people in 2008.

The federal government also has a checkered record on chemical safety. The main law regulating chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, has allowed tens of thousands of inadequately tested chemicals, including MCHM, to remain in use. (Experts say it’s unclear how harmful MCHM is and how much exposure could lead to death or a serious illness because the company that makes it has not publicly disclosed detailed information about the chemical.)

Instead of requiring manufacturers to show that their products are safe before they can be used, the law puts the burden of proof on the Environmental Protection Agency — a huge investigative and regulatory undertaking. The result is that the E.P.A. has tested just 200 of the roughly 85,000 chemicals in use today, and restricted fewer than a dozen.

What’s needed is meaningful reform like the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Democrat, that would require manufacturers to prove that chemicals are safe before they can be sold.

In recent days, concentrations of MCHM in the water system have fallen sharply and some in the Charleston area can now drink the tap water. But the passing of this crisis should not dissuade the state or the federal government from strengthening and enforcing statutes.

If you have never seen the documentaries Gasland I and II, I urge you to do so. It well documents the collusion and corruption in the industry and their very intricate connection to local and federal governments and agencies that are designed to oversee, regulate and protect the citizens and the environment of the communities within those jurisdictions. But like all of our current state of the states those are fiefdoms of individual decision making and independent governance. Bridgegate anyone?

Then today we have the UN report that warns about the issue of climate control and the long term affects of inaction. Followed by the obstacles that we have yet to overcome with regards to climate change. Yet Silicon Valley seems intent on "changing the world" by doing absolutely nothing but government surveillance and creating apps to circumvent paying taxes and fees for licensing on cars, hotels, and other service related economies. They have their priorities. Odd that Google just bought Nest ostensibly to push energy conservation or to further ingratiate themselves into your home and life? The NSA needs to partner with them clearly.

West Virgina mountain mama, take me home, country roads.

1 comment:

  1. An ounce of oil spill prevention is worth a pound of feathers any way you look at it. Our fate is in our format. SOAP format. I think if we all treated the earth as it is, a living breathing organism with rivers like veins and highways a kin to arteries then our soil, our blood, would be top priority. Let's face it, it does take a village. Thank you for posting. I think I forgot myself, how much I care too.