Coal Tattoo

Memo to W.Va. leaders: Not all industry hates EPA

Rally For Coal

Normally, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce provides the state media with a pretty one-sided version of what’s going on in our world. There’s always a lot of attacks on environmental protections and trial lawyers.

But in reporting yesterday from White Sulphur Springs, the Gazette’s David Gutman found a little bit different story coming from the guy who wants to build the huge natural gas “cracker” plant in Wood County:

David Peebles, a vice president for Odebrecht, the Brazilian petrochemical company that owns ASCENT, cited the Bible in discussing his company’s work in West Virginia.

In the parable of the talents, three servants are given talents (a unit of money) by their master.

Two servants traded their money, doubled their investment and were praised. The third servant buried his money and was reprimanded.

“We’ve been dealt a hand here that’s not five talents, I think it’s 1,000 talents, with shale,” Peebles said. “This is going to be a tidal wave that we do not yet understand.”

He talked about developing a regional hub with neighboring states and pointed out that 45 percent of the plastics industry that cracker plant will serve is within 500 miles of the site.

Peebles promised to work with unions and sign a project labor agreement for the cracker complex.

“We cannot think of labor as a commodity, we cannot think of labor as people that we’re going to use up and spit out,” he said.

Addressing environmental concerns, Peebles said his company would, obviously, disturb the environment but promised to use best practices to mitigate its impact.

“We don’t want to avoid regulations, we don’t want to bash the EPA, we don’t want to bash the Corps of Engineers, we want to have a cooperative relationship, because no one wants to breathe bad air, no one wants to drink contaminated water,” Peebles said. “We have to be out front with progressive policies that allow that to happen.”

Wait, there’s more:

He went out of his way to praise the EPA, the frequent whipping boy of West Virginia politicians.

“Everybody today is upset with [the] EPA, well I grew up in high school in Cleveland, where the Cuyahoga River was burning,” Peebles said. “Mr. Nixon was the guy who started the EPA, and thank God, we have clean air and we have clean water.”

Sadly, David Gutman also reports this bit of paranoia from Sen. Joe Manchin:

Manchin accused the Obama administration of trying to do away with all fossil fuels.

“I’ve been telling my gas friends, if you think they’re picking on coal and not going to come after you, think again,” Manchin said. “They get done with coal, it’s gas, I can assure you that. They don’t want anything.”

This from Sen. Manchin, who not so long ago was saying that he wanted to find middle ground, and work with those who know that greenhouse emissions need to be reduced. It remains hard to consider Sen. Manchin an honest broker on these issues. Perhaps he needs to sit down with the folks from ASCENT and learn a little bit about why we have an EPA and what some business leaders are saying about protecting the environment.