Last week, a company called Freedom Industries accidentally leaked a dangerous chemical into the Elk River, leaving 300,000 residents of West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley without water service. Lax government regulations appear to have had a direct role in the emergency.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn’t quite see it that way. Here’s how he responded to a reporter’s question this morning about the disaster in West Virginia (via Sabrina Siddiqui).
“The issue is this: we have enough regulations on the books. And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs. Why wasn’t this plant inspected since 1991?“I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people. Somebody ought to be held accountable here. What we try to do is look at those regulations that we think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing our economy jobs. That’s where our focus continues to be.”
Oh, I see. West Virginia faced a crisis caused by a toxic chemical spill at least in part because the Obama administration didn’t do enough to regulate Freedom Industries. This from the Republican leader who complains almost daily that the Obama administration is doing far too much to regulate the nation’s businesses.
Note, Boehner hints that he has no idea what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know that regulations are currently in place to prevent crises like this, but he’s “entirely confident” that the safeguards already exist. Why? Because he apparently has a hunch. Just don’t bother to ask questions about the details.
The New York Times, on the other hand, reported yesterday on the regulatory breakdown that contributed to the problem.
“We can’t just point a single finger at this company,” said Angela Rosser, the executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We need to look at our entire system and give some serious thought to making some serious reform and valuing our natural resources over industry interests.”She said lawmakers have yet to explain why the storage facility was allowed to sit on the river and so close to a water treatment plant that is the largest in the state.Ms. Rosser and others noted that the site of the spill has not been subject to a state or federal inspection since 1991. West Virginia law does not require inspections for chemical storage facilities – only for production facilities.
But don’t worry, West Virginians, the Speaker of the House is certain that existing regulations are “enough.” The safeguards that are already in place will probably keep you and your family safe – he’s “entirely confident” about it.
UPDATE: Related video: