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Rockefeller Says It's "Dangerous To Simply Rely On Industry To Do The Right Thing"

Reported: Feb. 10, 2014 1:20 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 10, 2014 1:31 PM EST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller released a statement Monday following a congressional field hearing conducted on the water crisis in Charleston, saying “we have learned the hard way that it is dangerous to simply rely on industry to do the right thing.”

“Industry has long resisted new regulations or stronger enforcement measures,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “It is short-sighted to think that last month’s spill is an isolated incident in West Virginia. And it is short-sighted to think that proper regulations would in any way stifle business — the contrary is true.

“Good businesses cannot thrive or even survive if they must shoulder the costs when bad actors get away with cutting corners. It’s time to acknowledge that industry is not looking out for you. Too many in industry are driven solely by maximized profits, and this cynical strategy has caused tremendous harm to West Virginians’ well-being and has shaken their sense of our state’s future.”

Rockefeller's comments follow the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing that was held at the Kanawha County Courthouse. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall were among the panelists at the hearing.

Rockefeller said many unanswered questions remain following the Jan. 9 chemical spill.

“It has been a financially taxing and emotionally draining month for families and businesses who have struggled with concerns about the water’s safety, worries about long-term health effects of this chemical exposure, and the noxious odor that remains in their water," he said. "State and federal agencies are working to find answers, but deficiencies in our regulatory structure and the lack of adequate funding for federal agencies have made their jobs infinitely more difficult.

“We must ensure that no West Virginian is left doubting our future and our regulatory scheme at the state or federal level.”

The senator said he was encouraged to hear “so many passionate and articulate people who love West Virginia step up and demand that we protect our future. We know that we can no longer trade the public’s health and welfare for industry profits.”

Rockefeller said he hours following the spill, he asked the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to open an investigation into the root cause of the spill. He said has asked the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency to work on a joint study into the long-term health risks associated with this chemical spill.

Since there is a limited amount of information about the chemicals that poisoned the water, Rockefeller said, he contacted the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Centers for Disease Control asking that any studies, new findings or outside data be shared among the many federal and state agencies working to address this spill, as well as with the public.

Rockefeller said that he, U.S. Senator Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would require regular state inspections of chemical storage facilities and make sure the chemical industry is held accountable for developing an emergency response plan for their facilities when an incident like this occurs.

In addition, Rockefeller said he cosponsored two bills that would hold companies like Freedom Industries accountable when spills of non-hazardous substances occur, and provide state and federal governments with access to funding that can cover the costs associated with cleaning up a chemical spill.

“I have been deeply frustrated and disappointed with the halting and slow flow of information West Virginians need to make good decisions about the use of their tap water,” Rockefeller said. “As West Virginians make decisions about the water they use, they must have straightforward answers about possible contaminants in the water. Their confidence will only be restored when they are sure that everyone across the board — businesses, manufacturers and government officials — is being up front and doing everything possible to protect their health and safeguard their water.”



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