Two days ago near Charleston, West Virginia, Patriot Coal Corp. spilled more than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry into a tributary of the Kanawha River. Slurry is a coal-mining waste product containing dozens of chemicals. But this contamination of the area’s water comes as a morbid sequel for 300,000 West Virginians, because their water had already been fouled. Last month, Freedom Industries leaked an estimated 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or MCHM, into a different tributary of the Kanawha and directly into Charleston’s water supply. While West Virginians literally thirst for answers, the Republican Party wants more mining.
The Republican National Committee is a major organizing and fundraising arm of the Republican Party. At its winter meeting January 24, its members codified their commitment to do everything in their power to take authority of federal lands — in MT, WY, CO, NM, AZ, UT, ID, NV, WA, OR, CA, and AK — away from Washington. They want to shift control of these lands to the states. By doing so, they intend to aggressively expand mining and oil-drilling. They assert that these lands, when managed by the states, can be opened for mining and drilling 10 times faster than presently.
Excerpted from the RNC’s “Resolution in Support of Western States Taking Back Public Lands,” as adopted Jan. 24, 2014:
“WHEREAS, The federal government discourages capital investment and job creation by taking 10 times longer to approve energy development permits than states…
“WHEREAS, The Institute for Energy Research discovered in 2013 that there is more than $150 trillion in mineral value locked up in federally controlled lands;…
“RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee calls upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the imminent transfer of public lands to all willing western states for the benefit of these western states and for the nation as a whole.”
It is ironic that 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, the chemical spilled by Freedom Industries into Charleston’s water supply, is used to wash coal. Exposure to it can be sickening. A partial list of symptoms include diarrhea, headaches, irritated skin, vomiting, and dizziness. The American Association of Poison Control Centers and reporting by CNN has established that approximately 300,000 people in the Charleston area could not safely drink or bathe for a week after last month’s contamination.
A full month after the accident, ABC News reported February 8 that Dr. Rahul Gupta who heads the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department still has reservations about drinking the water.
“The symptoms that may develop on exposure in the short run may not necessarily be tied to the long-term impact of the exposure of this chemical. So, to me it is very important that we take a serious look at working to find out what the long-term impact of this chemical is. I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the long term impact of this chemical without knowing the realities….”
“Water is not supposed to have that smell…. And as long as it’s in the water, people are having a difficult time drinking the fluid, such as water that is smelling, myself included.”
As 300,000 West Virginians in the Charleston area thirst for answers amid uncertainty about the long-term health effects of drinking their water, the Republican Party wants more mining. It wants to aggressively expand mining and drilling in federal lands west of the Mississippi.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there are thousands of oil and chemical spills every year in the United States. For every record-setting, news cycle-dominating BP-caliber disaster (the company pleaded guilty to 14 criminal counts, including felony manslaughter, after allowing 210 million gallons of oil to spew into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010), thousands of spills are not national news. Coal and oil-related contamination of our water, it turns out, is commonplace. It is so far uncommon for two serious, unrelated accidents to afflict the same community simultaneously.
And then there’s North Carolina…
According to CNN, on February 2, a pipe broke at the Dan River coal-fired power plant operated by Duke Energy. Over the next week, up to 27 million gallons of coal ash – the sludge that remains after burning coal – poured into the Dan River. The Environmental Protection Agency says it was likely the third-largest ash spill in U.S. history. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said last Friday that levels of arsenic, iron, aluminum and copper were all higher in the river. And the U.S. Attorney has issued subpoenas to Duke Energy.
Thirsty for conclusive answers that may not be forthcoming anytime soon, back in West Virginia people are adapting as best they can. Steadfast, the Republican Party wants more mining and is resolved to aggressively expand mining and oil drilling across what, as of today, remain the federally managed lands of the American West.
By Noah Intara Zim
Los Angeles Times
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Republican National Committee
U.S. Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Greensboro News & Record