“We are suffering under an ever-expanding web of EPA regulations, especially in our coal industry,” says Nick Casey, the politician who won the Democratic primary to succeed Shelly Capito in West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district.
It wasn’t any expanding web of EPA regulations that caused the Elk River disaster in West Virginia this year, however. In January, it was discovered that a coal-processing facility had been leaking large amounts of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, also known as MCMH, into the Elk River for an unknown length of time. The pollution of drinking water downstream was so intense that the majority of West Virginia residents could not safely use their own tap water. West Virginia children in schools contaminated by the chemical spill passed out unconscious due to noxious fumes.
“Do not drink it. Do not cook with it. Do not wash clothes in it. Do not take a bath in it,” warned West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. “It’s caused us more problems than you could ever imagine,” said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones. Months after the spill was detected, the chemical stench from the spill remains in people’s drinking water.
The Elk River catastrophe is only one of many environmental disaster caused by the coal industry in West Virginia. Alpha Natural Resources, for example, was recently found to have criminally released toxic amounts of selenium into West Virgina waterways.
Still, Nick Casey is pretending that there isn’t any pollution problem with the coal industry in West Virginia. He’s seeking to make it even easier for coal companies to dump toxic materials into West Virginia waters, by loosening what regulations already exist. Casey is betting that he will be able to buy more support with money from the coal industry than he will lose by endangering the health of West Virginians.
His calculation may prove correct – given that people who have fallen ill due to drinking water polluted by Big Coal may not have the strength to make it to the ballot box in November.