Monday, January 20, 2014

Something Smells

Freedom Industries, the company that most say is responsible for the chemical spill that has left hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia without clean drinking water, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now, this is not because the company has run out of money. This is because, under the guidelines of Chapter 11, the company cannot be sued. That means that the more than 30 lawsuits filed against the company as a result of the chemical spill are null and void.

But there's something else that seems to have gone on over at Freedom Industries. Apparently, the company hadn't paid taxes in years. Then, there was that whole thing about no proper inspections since the 90's. All in all, this chemical spill seems to highlight a number of glaring issues that should be addressed.

Let's start with the issue of the inspection lapses. A lot of pundits have argued that this lack of inspection was because the EPA was simply sitting around doing nothing. They argue that it was failing to uphold the laws and regulations that were already on the books. In actuality, the lapse was due to budget cuts that made it impossible for the EPA to do its job effectively. I agree with John Boehner when he said that we have enough regulations. What we need is for Congress to give the EPA enough money to actually enforce them. The only place I think we need more intervention is understanding the effects of these chemicals. As of now, they're not listed as toxic to humans, but that's only because no one has bothered to test them. We should put up the funding to find out what the impact of this spill is going to be, and the company should be held responsible for those medical issues that derive from the spill.

Then, there's the whole tax issue. While this might seem unrelated to the chemical spill, in my mind it speaks to the attitude of the company in general. If they are ambivalent about paying their federally mandated taxes, it is likely that they are ambivalent about other federally mandated things like safety regulations and so on. I would not be surprised to find that Freedom Industries knew about issues with containment of these chemicals, and that they chose to ignore them.

Finally, there's the issue of how the public found out about the spill. From what I understand, the company wasn't even aware that it had happened. There was some kind of delay between when the leak started and when authorities were notified. Not only did people consume water that was contaminated, but even after the water ban was lifted, residents reported dirty, discolored, or contaminated water coming out of their pipes.

Now, given all of this, the company has filed for bankruptcy, essentially shielding it from any personal responsibility. They will force the taxpayers to cover the cost of their spill, and will be immune from legal action for their negligence. That is NOT how America is supposed to work. in America, it appears that flesh-and-blood citizens have been replaced, or at least made secondary, to our corporate citizens. If a person caused this much damage and mayhem, and contributed to the health risk of 300,000 people, would we let them get away with it by declaring bankruptcy? Absolutely NOT!

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