West Virginia Senator: My Residents Are Losing Faith in Government

Sen. Jay Rockefeller said the political fallout from the Elk River chemical spill is perpetuating the state’s sense of fatalism.

Rockefeller: Dems unified on FCC issue.
National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
Add to Briefcase
Jack Fitzpatrick
Feb. 4, 2014, 7:47 a.m.

The chem­ic­al spill in West Vir­gin­ia’s Elk River has at­trac­ted a chor­us of com­plaints about the lack of reg­u­la­tion and ac­count­ab­il­ity be­fore and after the spill, but Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller sees a big­ger prob­lem.

The West Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat said that Free­dom In­dus­tries’ chem­ic­al spill and its bank­ruptcy fil­ing just a week later are en­cour­aging the state’s “Scotch-Ir­ish” sense of fa­tal­ism, dur­ing a hear­ing of the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Wa­ter and Wild­life Sub­com­mit­tee.

There is “an Ap­palachi­an myth,” Rock­e­feller said, that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will not look out for the state, and that com­pan­ies like Free­dom In­dus­tries can­not be held ac­count­able.

“The idea that God has it in his plan to make sure that in­dustry is go­ing to make life safe for you — not true,” he said.

Rock­e­feller said West Vir­gin­ia res­id­ents have told him they want to leave the state be­cause they have no faith that their wa­ter will be clean, either in the short or long term.

That be­lief, Rock­e­feller said, was ex­acer­bated when Free­dom In­dus­tries filed for bank­ruptcy, which he and sev­er­al sen­at­ors said could be a means of avoid­ing li­ab­il­ity for the spill.

“They will cut corners, and they will get away with it,” Rock­e­feller said.

Much of the hear­ing was fo­cused on strength­en­ing the Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act, which re­quires test­ing and re­port­ing on chem­ic­al-stor­age fa­cil­it­ies. The Free­dom In­dus­tries fa­cil­ity had not been tested since 2002. Rock­e­feller co­sponsored a Sen­ate bill with fel­low West Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat Joe Manchin, as well as Bar­bara Box­er and Dick Durbin, which would amend TSCA’s sys­tem of as­sess­ing chem­ic­al risks.

Rock­e­feller was adam­ant that fed­er­al le­gis­la­tion is ne­ces­sary to pre­vent sim­il­ar chem­ic­al spills in the fu­ture, rather than leav­ing the is­sue to state reg­u­lat­ors. That’s partly for prac­tic­al reas­ons re­lat­ing to en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions, he said, but also to put a dent in West Vir­gini­ans’ pass­ive views.

“You don’t ac­cept the world as it is,” Rock­e­feller said. “You ac­cept it as it should be, and then you make it con­form to that pos­ture.”

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
33 minutes ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
48 minutes ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
FIRST TIME SINCE ITS CREATION
House Reauthorizes DHS
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.

Source:
OPPONENTS SAY SHE SHOULD RESIGN
AFT’s Weingarten Likens Voucher Support to Segregation
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login