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.