Conservatism In The Real World: W. VA Complained About Coal Regulation 3 Months Ago, Now There’s An Epic Chemical Spill

The Attorney General for West Virginia filed a legal brief in November complaining about EPA regulation of the coal industry.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed what he calls a “major” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule on cross-state air pollution.

“This is a really important issue because it really gets to the whole question as to how much authority states have and the federal government has in implementing the Clean Air Act,” said Morrisey.

West Virginia is joined in the brief by other states including, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The brief claims that the EPA exceeded its authority under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) when the agency promoted a rule in 2011 announcing new air pollution cuts and imposing federal implementation plans on states. The brief also argues the CAA requires the EPA to give states an opportunity to decide how to meet new air pollution standards.

Today in West Virginia the government has been forced to truck in thousands of gallons of water because a chemical used in the coal manufacturing process has leaked into the water supply. Originally the authorities estimated that 2-5,000 gallons of the chemical leaked. Today they estimate that it was 7,500 gallons. The poison control hotline in West Virginia has received nearly 800 calls from people who have experienced adverse effects from the leak.

Morrisey, the Attorney General, is a Republican but in the case of West Virginia it doesn’t matter. Both parties there are owned by the coal industry. Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator, rose to his seat in part thanks to a campaign ad showing him shooting the Senate’s Cap & Trade bill. This stuff is not limited to any single party but rather the conservative ideology and the almighty dollar.

Look, silly government red tape is useless and a hindrance to legitimate business — but some things need to be regulated, specifically fuel sources that are an environmental hazard in their production and use. Why?


So when conservatives make simplistic arguments about regulation, particularly environmental regulation, you should really ignore them. This stuff kills people, destroys the environment and is just generally speaking bad news. You don’t have to be a tree hugging environmental hippie to understand this, just a normal thinking human being.

(Thanks to James Overholt, who tipped me off to this)


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  • D_C_Wilson


    But see, with the magic of the free market, companies will stop killing people because they’re afraid of being hit with multi-million dollar lawsuits by the families. Now excuse me, I have to go promote tort reform that will limit corporate liability.

    /Channeling republican brain.

  • wetcasements

    Glibertarians and Repubicans are always welcome to fly Libertarian Airlines:

  • majii

    This is another example of a people reaping what they’ve sown. Many West Virginians believe that regulations hobble business, and that companies should be allowed to do whatever they want to do as long as they provide a few jobs and make a profit. Well, I hope the people of WV learn something from this disaster–people’s lives and the environment are much more important than companies having free reign to do whatever they want to do in the interest of making a profit. I don’t suppose any of the people in the nine counties affected by chemical contamination are thinking too kindly of Freedom Industries today– their second day without running water.

    • condew

      Not to mention the people down-river from the spill in other states, who may not get enough of a dose to make them sick immediately, but get a cocktail of such spills that raise cancer rates. This chemical will end up in the Ohio river; Cincinnati and Louisville will get a taste, and then on into the Mississippi.

      • D_C_Wilson

        Never have I been happier to live upstream from West Virginia.

    • Christopher Foxx

      Well, I hope the people of WV learn something from this disaster

      I’m sure they have: This didn’t happen until after Obamacare was implemented.

      • D_C_Wilson

        Yep. I’m sure organizations like Freedomworks are already working on ads blaming this disaster on Obama’s “war on coal.”

  • Arcnor

    For sane, rational, emotionally well-adjusted people, this qualifies as a disaster, corporate malfeasance (or at least incompetence), and a serious call for tighter regulation and enforcement of pollution and environmental standards.

    For conservatives, this is an indication that regulations are too tight, and taxes are too high, and if we just clap our hands a little louder, the Blessed Free Market will fix everything! At best, for conservatives, it’s a classic example of what Douglas Adams called an S.E.P. — Somebody Else’s Problem. As long as their stock portfolios are growing in value, and they can’t light their tap water on fire, well, fk anyone who’s in the disaster zone — serves ‘em right.

    Because, for conservatives, if something horrific happens to someone else, well, that just means that the unfortunate victims must have deserved it. They must have been morally destitute, or lazy, or something — the baby Jeebus would never let bad things happen to good people, after all.

    They cannot admit that maybe there’s a little flaw in their philosophy of Deregulate Everything Now! Because, if there is… then they’ve been wrong, about everything, and responsible for one unholy hell of a lot of unnecessary suffering over the decades.

    And who’d want to admit that?

    • bbiemeret

      Loved the D. Adams ref. Do you know where your towel is?

      • Arcnor

        Sure do. It’s at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.”

        Have to keep track of your valuables, after all.

    • D_C_Wilson

      But if something happens that causes even a minor inconvenience to them, you can bet they’ll be the first ones screaming their heads off for federal aide.

      • Arcnor

        Naturally. Because, unlike those people (and we all know who those people are, don’t we?), they’re not moochers — they deserve every damn penny, and then some, because they’re real Americans. Unlike the people everywhere else who dare to get run down by hurricanes and tornadoes and industrial accidents.

        Hypocrisy is not merely a political choice for conservatives, it’s a way of life.

        • D_C_Wilson

          And never has it been more blatant than in recent years. Witness how the same congress critters who opposed any aid to the blue states hit by Hurricane Sandy were then screaming for federal relief when their states got hit by tornadoes, all the while insisting that their case was “different.”