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House Dems Press for Hearing on West Virginia Chemical Spill House Dems Press for Hearing on West Virginia Chemical Spill

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Energy

House Dems Press for Hearing on West Virginia Chemical Spill

Rep. Henry Waxman said a chemical spill exposed gaps in federal oversight.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

January 13, 2014

A top House Democrat is urging the chamber's GOP majority to hold a hearing on the West Virginia chemical spill that left hundreds of thousands of people unable to use tap water in recent days.

The request from Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, shows that the accident will likely influence political battles over the scope of federal chemical regulation.

"Late last week, residents of nine counties in West Virginia learned that their water supply had been contaminated with a toxic chemical for which emergency responders and regulators had precious little information," the California Democrat and a colleague said in a letter Monday.

 

"We are writing to request that you immediately schedule a hearing to examine the regulatory gaps that this incident has exposed in the nation's toxic-chemical-control laws," adds the letter from Waxman to Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

A spokeswoman for Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, in a statement, did not say directly whether a hearing would occur.

"The committee is actively monitoring the federal investigation and working to fully obtain the facts surrounding the situation," spokeswoman Charlotte Baker said.

Efforts to toughen Environmental Protection Agency chemical oversight under the Toxic Substances Control Act have failed to advance on Capitol Hill for years, but some environmentalists are using the accident to revive calls to strengthen the law.

The letter from Waxman and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., urges Shimkus to hold a hearing on the spill and "its relevance to the committee's consideration of TSCA reform legislation."

West Virginia officials began lifting water use restrictions Monday, five days after a chemical used in coal processing called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol seeped into the Elk River from a plant in Charleston.

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