Senator Jay Rockefeller (D,Wv) does not believe that water in Charleston, West Virginia is safe for nearly 300,000 residents in the wake of a major chemical spill in the area. Rockefeller was distrustful despite reassurances from West Virginia regulatory agencies that levels of hazardous chemicals were within safe limits, according to ABC News, Feb. 8, 2014. One such chemical, MCHM, or methylcyclohexane methanol, poses major threats to public safety.
Rockefeller rationalized his distrust of the State agency reassurances on the basis of some of the practices of corporations, such as dominating the process whereby gubernatorial appointments to regulatory agencies are made. Often times, as Rockefeller sees it, such appointments go to those who have made significant contributions to the campaigns of the governors involved. Rockefeller explained his distrust of the West Virginia regulatory agencies and corporations:
“It just gets into the degree of control that corporations have over people. They dominate in West Virginia’s life. Governors get elected — and I was a governor once — and they appoint people to regulatory jobs who helped them in campaigns. What does that tell you?”
The Freedom Industries Plant in Charleston announced on Jan. 9, 2014 that one of its tanks had leaked 5,000 gallons of MCHM into the Elk River. Then it rescinded that announcement and stated that it had leaked 10,000 gallons into the river and that it also had leaked significant levels of another chemical, propylene glycol phenyl ether (PPH) and dipropylene glycol phenyl ether from the same tank.
Rockefeller also was dismayed over the fact that the Freedom Industries plant had not been inspected since 1991. Rockefeller and two other U.S. Senators, Joe Manchin (D,Wv) and Barbara Boxer (D,Ca) have sponsored legislation that calls for strengthening above ground inspections of the tanks at chemical plants such as the Freedom Industries plant. The bill currently is being considered by a Senate Committee.