The national spotlight in on West Virginia again because of the chemical spill on the Elk River. This spill happened because of either non-existing regulations or lax regulations that were impossible to enforce. These lax regulations exist in most of our West Virginia industries: chemical, coal, oil and gas, and even in the timber industry to a certain extent.
The lax regulations are the result of lobbyists who pay out big money and favors to our state and national representatives in Charleston and Washington. Some of these so-called representatives have investments in the above-named industries.
If all the many disasters that have happened in West Virginia would have happened in one of our bordering states, the news media would cover it until something concrete was settled, it likely wouldn't happen again without a serious penalty. Think about instances in West Virginia like Buffalo Creek, Silver Bridge, Willow Island, Montcoal, and the list goes on. The Elk River spill isn't of the magnitude of the ones mentioned above, but health problems could appear a few years down the road. The normal response has already started by the few key politicians about how strong and resilient our citizens are, and we all need to work together to make some needed changes in the regulations so this can't ever happen again.
This time we need to make a stand, and state that the only changes that we need are changes to the people in Charleston and Washington who are supposed to be representing us. They are always lax on implementing and enforcing the existing rules. The new penalties and language should make the responsible agency capable to do their own independent inspection without politics becoming involved.
It is very important that everyone should register to vote and show up at the polls in May and November. This language Charleston and Washington understand! Write to your respective representatives and let them know the watered-down, almost-impossible-to-enforce legislation is history.
We have been exploited enough through the years. It is time to take some positive action that can give West Virginians a proud, safe and brighter future.
Robert L. Berry