Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't Hit the Snooze Button - Drilling Waste and Rule Changes

The people are awake!  They have come to realize that many of their government officials are not always working for the people's well-being and that regulators often allow undisclosed corporate interests to steer policy in favor of Wall Street and its stockholders even to the detriment of people's health. People are raising their voices throughout the region and our state legislature is starting to pay attention. 

During the 2014 legislative session, it came to light that the landfill in Berkeley County, just feet away from the Potomac River, a major tributary into the Chesapeake Bay, was readily available and permitted due to lacking regulation to receive radioactive and toxic fracking waste into its facilities. These facilities sit on a karst topography. Karst consists of underground cavernous formations that can unpredictably distribute water and other solutions through its channels into our water supplies and major waterways.

Slowly, policy is beginning to move in the direction of protecting people over maximizing corporate profit for out-of-state interests. Senators Unger and Cookman have largely led the way by introducing and advocating viable solutions for our state that would both protect our drinking water and allow for industry to continue operations in more responsible ways. During a recent interim meeting of our Legislature, a provision was introduced and passed that would protect the citizens of the Panhandle from fracking waste being dumped into the local landfill. 

While this is positive movement, it is important to understand that the provision in the rules is just an interim measure designed to protect karst regions from fracking waste until such time as more formal and permanent legislation can be introduced during the regular Legislative Session in 2015. Yet, there are those who would want you to believe that the threat of having radioactive and toxic waste dumped into the Panhandle is no longer an issue and that all is well. "Go back to sleep," they may tell you, as they continue to accept donations from major energy interests and gear up for a regular session where they seek to put the steering wheel right back into the hands of out-of-state corporate greed.

I got into this race because I was outraged by the fact that our wide open policy and lacking oversight of existing policy led to a crisis of unprecedented proportion when 300,000 people were poisoned in January of this year during the Elk River chemical spill. To this day, there are people in the nine affected counties who are unwilling (and rightfully so) to drink the water that comes from their taps. The more I get into this race, the more I learn just how far "big energy" is willing to take their agenda at the expense of your health, your children's health, and the economic health of our state long-term.

Don't hit the snooze button! Keep raising your voice. Keep writing your representatives. Keep paying attention. Together, we can continue this struggle until we have long-term permanent solutions where industry and people can co-exist in a future that is both prosperous and where your well-being means more than a New York stockholder's portfolio.

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