Published on January 17th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


Boehner Says No New Regulations Needed After WV Chemical Spill

January 17th, 2014 by  

Originally published on ThinkProgress.
By Kiley Kroh

300,000 West Virginians didn’t have access to clean tap water for five days due to a massive chemical spill that exposed multiple failures in oversight and compliance, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) thinks the federal government shouldn’t do more to protect citizens from future disasters.

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“We have enough regulations on the books. What the administration ought to be doing is doing their jobs. Why was this plant not inspected since 1991?” he asked at a weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

Saying he was “confident” regulations were in place to protect people, Boehner continued that “someone ought to be held accountable. We need to look at those regulations that are cumbersome, over-the-top, and costing the economy jobs. That is where our focus is, and should continue.”

The plant wasn’t inspected for more than two decades due to a loophole in regulations. Because the facility was only storing chemicals, not producing anything, inspections are not required under West Virginia law.

Gaps in chemical regulation may have impacted response to the spill, as well. Despite the fact a potentially hazardous chemical was being stored just over a mile upstream from a major water treatment facility, West Virginia American Water said they weren’t familiar with the chemical or how to handle its entry into the water supply. In a letter to Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) requesting a hearing on the regulatory gaps exposed by the spill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) wrote, “As we begin to consider ideas to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), it is critically important that we understand how the law allowed a potentially harmful chemical to remain virtually untested for nearly forty years.”

Crude MCHM, used in coal production, “is one of 64,000 chemicals in use in the United States before 1979 that the 1976 law ‘grandfathered,’ imposing no requirements that anyone prove they are or are not safe,” Politico reported.

Boehner’s critique of environmental regulations is nothing new for the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 109 times to undermine environmental efforts in 2013. And Boehner himself is the House’s top recipient of contributions from the coal industry, collecting $600,025 according to Open Secrets.

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  • Otis11

    I’ll say it again – taxes, fines and penalties! Regulations cost lots of money to enforce. Establish a fine of $1,000 per gallon leaked if reported within 5 minutes of discovery, $100,000 per gallon if not reported immediately, and the party has to pay 100% of cleanup, environmental and economic costs. Add a 50% increase if the company is found to be negligent. Add in the fact that the plant is shut down (aka 100% inaccessible and unusable to the company for a full 1-2 years inspection after all clean up efforts are completed) and the opportunity costs they lose would be enough on their own to “encourage” proper procedure.

    The federal government would never have to inspect another site and you better believe with those fines every company would implement proper handling procedures, proper check procedures and make sure to provide regular inspections and maintainance all on their own!

    You just have to make the penalties for spills unacceptably high and the companies will make sure the possibilities of failure are negligibly low. Much more effective than regulations and MUCH less costly…

  • Sharon Woolums

    “inspections are not required under West Virginia law”…
    We cannot take democracy for granted. A government’s top priority should be to protect its citizens. “Someone ought to be held accountable…” Mr. Boehner take a long look in the mirror.


  • johnBas5

    Boehner is just an asshole.
    He knows it’s bad and says these things on purpose.

    He does not care about what’s right or politics.
    The only thing he knows is he is getting money if he is in favour of what gives him money. The coal companies give him money if he does and says certain things.
    He is getting money from the coal companies.
    He is bribed.

    And notice how he says no new regulations necessary.
    He didn’t say change the regulations to close the loophole or do less EPA inspection. This time.
    Apparently there is a loophole that says chemical storage businesses do not have to adhere to the same standards as the chemical process businesses.

    Ask him if he will now increase funding for the funding-starved EPA that could not do a planned inspection of the storage facility in question because of lack of funds after Boehner had cut their funds.

  • “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain

    • Wayne Williamson

      Matt, do you have a link for this one…its something I will cherish…Thanks!

    • Otis11

      Hahaha, gotta love that one!

  • RobS

    Is Boehner that much of an idiot or just staggeringly misinformed? Because the law had a loophole written into it that didn’t require them to be!! This is a perfect example of insufficient regulation and he wants to use it as an opportunity to discuss further deregulation? What a buffoon.

    • Shiggity

      The man is a puppet, he is told what to say and when to say it.

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