Where’s the accountability?”

Appearing on-line in Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Monday, December 14, 2020 Opinion by Eric Engle, Parkersburg, WV

I was startled out of the lull of nightly streaming with my fiancée when news broke on my iPhone about an explosion and fire at a Chemours facility.

At first, I thought it was the Washington Works plant near my home in Parkersburg. I was not at all relieved to learn that it was, in fact, a facility about 10 miles outside of Charleston, in Belle. That facility earlier this year was fined by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in the amount of $14,193 for failure to properly manage hazardous waste.

That fine is not even half the cost of an average new car these days. Here we are, just over two months after this “penalty,” and one person is dead, three are injured, and a shelter-in-place order had to be issued for a 2-mile radius around the plant site for approximately four hours on a cold night — the relevance of the cold being that the order required households to turn off their heating units for air-safety reasons.

Where’s the accountability?

To switch gears a bit, the latest data as I write shows that 64,394 West Virginians (and counting) have been infected with COVID-19 and 978 West Virginians (and counting) have died. Hospitals and medical personnel are overwhelmed. The accompanying economic crisis has led and is leading to unemployment, low earnings, evictions, utility shutoffs and other untold suffering. The Justice administration, meanwhile, is sitting on about $800 million in unspent federal funding for the state and a deadline to use it of Dec. 31.

Where’s the accountability?

Then there’s climate change. Recent reporting by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone titled “How Climate Change is Ushering in a New Pandemic Era” details how our warming planet is “expanding the range of deadly diseases and risking an explosion of new zoonotic pathogens from the likes of bats, mosquitoes, and ticks.” The article states: “By one count, an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of those, more than 800,000 could have the ability to infect humans.”