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Regulating West Virginia

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Why doesn’t West Virginia have decent environmental regulations? Because the state legislature has to approve each one!

West Virginia imposes an unusual hurdle for its Department of Environmental Protection: Regulations it writes are not enforceable until approved by the Legislature, giving lawmakers influenced by lobbyists a chance to revise them. Last year a regulation requiring natural-gas drillers to disclose the chemicals injected into the ground during hydraulic fracturing was revised at the request of Halliburton, the giant oil-services company, to keep the disclosure confidential.

In recent years the Department of Environmental Protection has moved to weaken limits on the amount of aluminum, a mining pollutant, in state waterways. Last year a bill sought by coal lobbyists ordering the department to revise limits on discharges of selenium, which is toxic to fish and expensive to clean up, passed the House of Delegates and the State Senate without opposition.

“A lot of our elected officials think it’s political suicide to take a stand against coal or in favor of the E.P.A.,” said Angie Rosser, the executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, a conservation group.

Other notes from this excellent article:

1. Joe Manchin is horrible.

2. The largest employer in West Virginia is Wal-Mart.

3. West Virginia politicians are all-in for an industry that has left the state 49th in the country in median household income, down from 47th in 1969.

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