Civic Issue Blog Post 2

In the wake of the recent environmental catastrophes in both West Virginia and North Carolina, many questions have been raised about the lack of environmental regulation in the United States. Both of these events also highlight the lack of media attention on many actual issues happening in the United States. If you are unfamiliar with what happened, here is what happened in North Carolina, and here is what happened in West Virginia. If you don’t feel like reading them, here is a short summary.

In North Carolina, close to 82,00 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. It has made the river a giant puddle of toxic sludge and is threatening drinking water for people across two states. The cleanup for this toxic mess is almost impossible to clean up. It affects the entire food chain from top to bottom and the entire ecosystem. Officials are still trying to devise a way to clean the mess up, but they fear it could be years before the environment returns to normal.

In West Virginia, an even worse chemical spill happened. 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a byproduct of coal production, has spilled into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia. 300,000 people were without fresh tap water at one point. Schools were closed and bottled water is running out. The river has turned a white color, and cleanup for that spill is just as difficult.

Both of these spills highlight many of the problems with business regulations in this country. Both of these spills could have been prevented with tighter regulations on these industries. Right now, there are very few environmental regulations on businesses that supply energy from non renewable resources, such as coal or oil. Just look at the issue with fracking right here in Pennsylvania. Fracking is destroying much of the water supply in the mountainous regions of this state, but because it is heralded as a “green energy” and because our governor supports it, nothing will change with it. Unfortunately, regulations like this are tough to impose on these businesses. Most of these businesses have strong lobbies to congress, so it is hard to get congressmen to change their vote when it would cost them substantially on the campaign trail. Also, many environmental issues are not covered by the news media, so most people do not care about the environment because they do not think anything is wrong with it.

Another way to combat these spills is to encourage the development and implication of green energy sources and better renewable energy sources. These sources include wind energy, solar energy, and geothermal energy. These energy sources are difficult to get a wide base of support around because they cost businesses and the government too much to implement. As a result, the same lobby vying for less regulations are also lobbying against the implementation of green energy technologies. This is making it even hard to get green energy implemented in industry today.

These two spills also highlight the problems with American media today. These spills affected hundreds of thousands of people across three states. The West Virginia spill has put people out of their homes and without drinking water. The North Carolina spill has even a wider reach, as the toxins move farther downstream, they will affect more and more people. However, national media barely covered this over the weeks they were happening. They were more concerned about what celebrity got arrested or why the Prime Minister from France did not have a wife to go to a State Dinner with. News stations actually took more time out of their broadcast to talk about the dynamics of the state dinner because of this, than they took time to talk about the spills. And the spills actually affected people in this country.


All of these issues can be solved but it comes with a large cost. Large energy companies are going to have to find new green technology, or they will be forced out of business. The news has to begin talking more about the issues with our environment to get people more educated about the problems facing the Earth today. It is a long hard fight, but it can be done.

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6 Responses to Civic Issue Blog Post 2

  1. Olivia Christman says:

    Environmental issues definitely need more attention in the media and public interest than they do today. Not only are we using up the resources we currently use at an alarming rate, but it seems that little is done to look towards other options! And I must admit that I didn’t know that the incidents in West Virginia or North Carolina were still affecting the population as much as they are. I’m glad you pointed out the media’s role in all of this- how are we to know that such a big problem is far from a resolution, when we don’t even realize the problem exists?
    I did think a lot though about your statement that people don’t care about the environment because they don’t know that these issues exist. While that may be a valid point, I also wondered if maybe it’s not that people don’t care about the environment because they don’t think anything is wrong, but rather that they don’t know anything is wrong, so they don’t have any instigation to think about such matters. And because people don’t naturally think about some of these issues it may seem they don’t care, maybe they do but don’t have any cases to use as discussion points for their beliefs. Does that make sense?
    I do think that we need to push for greener energy sources and technologies, not only will such acts create jobs and preserve the environment, but hopefully we can develop affordable alternative energy forms for when we no longer have the resources we so heavily rely on. I know Obama has tried to get Congress to pass legislation on green issues, but I haven’t heard much about that (maybe the media is at work here too?). Your last mini-paragraph also really got me thinking- sure, maybe some of these methods for green energy and technologies cost a lot of money, but by switching over will it save them more money down the road? Maybe people would be more willing to put effort into the green industry if they knew more about what effects and compensations are down the road.

  2. mdk5287 says:

    In all honesty I’m surprised and confused about this sentiment that the government holds the solutions to problems inherent of businesses. I can’t seem to believe your statement, “Both of these spills could have been prevented with tighter regulations on these industries.” Obviously, we have no way of determining the events of an alternate universe. I’ll be interested to read more about these specific stores. Both were labeled as “spills” and thus “accidental.” I’m not sure specifically how government regulation could have prevent accidents. If government regulation can produce the phenomena of avoiding all accidents, it should rather be employed directly in healthcare, where accidents cost people their lives: an interesting idea because, of course, accidents can’t be prevented entirely. Punishment when it does occur may indeed be just, but I can’t help but desire more innovative solutions to such worrying problems.

  3. Neel Thakur says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard about either one of these spills so the media is definitely doing a terrible job covering them; I’m guessing that the big energy companies paid some people off the hide the news. It’s disappointing that this happened and stricter regulations would probably have prevented this disaster. However, as you suggest, congress probably won’t be passing any new laws on the issue any time soon due to all of the pay offs and lobbyists going on. Part of the problem in this case, I believe, lies in the malpractices and corruption in our government that need to be remedied if we plan on accomplishing anything. However, I think that the bigger problem lies with our dependence on energy sources such as natural gas and coal. We tend to go the fossil fuel route because its the cheapest form of energy we have. Moreover, other forms of energy such as solar and wind are efficient enough yet to be implemented on a large scale and most people are too afraid to use nuclear energy. Again, a good portion of congress won’t be promoting alternative energy since the fossil fuel companies are the ones that can actually fund their campaigns and keep them in office. Yet, I think we will soon reach a time when we will have to choose alternative energy and I really think we need to start working towards that path right now.

  4. Rachel Krott says:

    This semester, I have started getting into the habit of waking up and turning on the news in the morning before I go to class. However, I feel like I am not even watching the news because as you stated, the media seems to care more about which celebrity got arrested this past week or the Minister of France’s lack of a date to the state dinner. I understand that these are the types of stories that attract viewers because they are “interesting,” but there are more important things going on in our nation such as these spills in North Carolina and West Virginia that the nation should know about. In order to be able to make changes in our nation, it is important that our citizens are educated on the issues and the possible solutions that are being weighed.

    Not only does this post bring to light the problems concerning environmental policy and the lack of restrictions on businesses, but it also brings to light the problems within the government. The big businesses have a large amount of say in the policies of the nation due to the campaign funding that they provide, and therefore certain issues within the nation are settled based upon what big businesses lobby for. I don’t want to attack the government, though, because I see potential in the members of our government’s ability to resolve these issues. Switching to green energy would most certainly fix these environmental issues, but that switch will be costly and it certainly won’t be quick. With that being said, it is important that we focus on protecting our environment and keeping it clean in any way that we possibly can, especially stricter regulations on businesses so that spills like these can be prevented.

  5. Jenny Eberhardt says:

    Like Emily, I had no idea about the spills in NC, Virginia and West Virginia. This can probably be attributed to lack of media coverage– like you said. When you look at my post, you will probably relate then about how the media perpetuates the coverage of crimes on celebrities and not nearly as much on what really matters. I really like how you highlight issues that are happening now, in our country, and how our own citizens are affected by the crisis but a lot of our other citizens who it does not seem to be directly affecting, do not know about it. I also like how you highlighted how this fight will be long and hard, but it can be done. I agree with you, if the public (and the media) takes the time to look at what is really important with our environment than we can kick start what happens with our media and environmental progress.

  6. enk5056 says:

    I totally did not know about the coal ash spill in North Carolina and I have family there! That’s sort of crazy that I had no idea. But i’m not surprised, the media censors and picks out everything we see and if it doesn’t generate ratings and isn’t entertaining on some level, they don’t show it. It’s funny because I recently attended a world in conversation session for my sociology class and our topic was climate but we mostly talked about environmentalism and why people (including me) don’t really get on board because the issues and SOLUTIONS not circulated and publisized enough. A lot of us came to the conclussion that global warming is not real in the discussion because it’s not something we can see so it’s hard to believe. I’m saying that not because I truly believe that anymore, but it relates to problems like this. It’s hard to understand the problem when you don’t see it in your own life. Something definetly needs to be done about the guidlines and restrictions businesses need to follow. It’s unacceptable that oil spills and water contamination is something that happens this often. Businesses should be held responsible and we need to hold them responsible.

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