Sustained Outrage

Probing the Bayer blast


Indeed, as an alert Sustained Outrage reader pointed out, a congressional hearing will be held on April 23 to investigate the August explosion that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute.

The hearing is being convened by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and by Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of Waxman’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The hearing is to “examine the causes of the accident, the adequacy of the response, and the scope of the information provided to the first responders, employees and the public.”

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Safety board secrecy?

bio_bresland_112wx156h.jpgIf you thought yesterday’s announcement by the federal Chemical Safety Board that the agency would hold a public hearing in the Kanawha Valley about last August’s deadly explosion at the Bayer CropScience plant meant the board was back to being open with the public, think again…

I’d like to find out more about Bayer’s claims that information from the board’s investigation should be confidential, and about board meetings with Bayer and discussions at formal board meetings on these issues.

So, I asked board Chairman John Bresland this week if I could have meeting minutes and staff notes, along with any correspondence from Bayer on the issue. And guess what?

Through a board spokesman, Bresland said I would have to file a formal Freedom of Information Act request and wait until the board’s staff gets around to processing that request.

By the way, if you want to attend the board’s public meeting on the Bayer explosion, it’s scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 23 at the West Virginia State University Wilson Building, Multipurpose Room, 103 University Union.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not required, but to assure adequate seating attendees are encouraged to pre-register by emailing their names and affiliations  by April 10. 

Two women and a baby

Fayette County Circuit Judge Paul M. Blake maintains that his decision to remove an infant from her foster parents, who happen to be lesbians, didn’t have anything to do with sexual orientation.

And Anthony Ciliberti, who represented Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess in their appeal of Blake’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, said Kutil “didn’t want to become a poster child for anyone’s cause.”

But the debate over whether “traditional” families, to use Blake’s term, (although he explained in a footnote that he meant “two-parent” rather than “single-parent” households), are the best option for adoptive children is attracting attention from gay and lesbian groups.

The case has drawn coverage from,  GO Magazine, and

You can also see a report from the Christian Broadcasting Network here.

And in addition to filings on behalf of Kutil and Hess, the child’s court-appointed guardian, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and Judge Blake, the case drew friend of the court briefs from the American College of Pediatricians, the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Social Workers and the Foster Care Alumni of America.

During the arguments, Chief Justice Brent Benjamin said that the case was specifically about what was best for this particular child, not children in general, but it seems likely that the case will have broader implications.

Sound science on C8?


DuPont’s Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg is at the center of a worldwide controversy over C8 and similar chemicals used to make Teflon and a variety of nonstick and stain-resistant products.

When I was reporting yesterday on EPA’s new C8 deal with DuPont, I stumbled across a news release issued by an organization called The Sapphire Group. If you lived near DuPont’s Wood County plant — or the company’s New Jersey facility of 3M’s plant in Minnesota — it sounded like good news. But there was a lot more to the story … stick with me here, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Well, today’s edition of the State Register lists a dozen public meetings that were announced in violation of the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act. The law requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting.

But gosh,  nine of those dozen open government violations were committed by one little agency: The Coalbed Methane Review Board. The board submitted meeting notices for nine different public hearings, all of which occurred yesterday. Kind of hard for the public to attend when the meeting notice is published after the meeting occurs, isn’t it?

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Wilderness Omnibusted


Republicans cast all but 3 of the 144 votes against the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which would have designated an additional 37,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest as wilderness, including Roaring Plains, pictured above. But Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was not one of them.

While 282 members of Congress, including Capito and Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va., voted for the act on Wednesday, it failed to move forward due to the lack of a two-thirds majority vote. Backers of the act, which would add wilderness protection to certain roadless federal lands from Alaska to Virginia, remain hopeful of passage later this year. For a breakdown of Wednesday’s vote, see here.  To see which areas would receive wilderness designation in West Virginia, go here.

Remember how Chesapeake Energy folks complained (is whined too strong a word?) about the 2007 Roane County Circuit Court jury award of about $404 million in compensation and penalties?

In the class-action “Tawney case,” people who sold natural gas to Chesapeake and its predecessors — Triana Energy, NiSource Inc. and Columbia Natural Resources — alleged they were cheated out of some of their royalty payments, and the jury agreed.

Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon, in his parting shot at the state last month, said the W.Va. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of the Tawney case had a lot to do with the company’s decisions to cancel plans to build a $40 million regional headquarters in Charleston and, ultimately, eliminate 215 valuable jobs here.

You might logically conclude Chesapeake was forced to fork over $404 million to its gas lease-holders and their lawyers. You would be wrong.

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We just published a story about an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it has lowered the trigger level for DuPont Co. to have to provide alternative drinking water for folks in the Parkersburg area whose water is contaminated with the toxic chemical C8.

EPA posted its deal with DuPont here, and also issued a “Fact Sheet” to provide more information about the matter.

An interesting line in this “Fact Sheet” reports that: “All of the area’s large public water systems, including Belpre, Little Hocking, Lubeck, Mason County, Tupper Plains/Chester and Pomeroy, are already treating water for PFOA.”

Well, what about the largest public water system in the area? That’s the Parkersburg Utility Board, which serves the city itself. It serves more than 36,000 people, according to EPA’s own data.

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TRI making a comeback


I wrote recently about efforts to urge President Obama to reverse some Bush administration rules that weakened the requirements for companies to report to the public and regulators about toxic chemical releases.

Well, guess what?

According to today’s Washington Post, at least some of the Bush rollbacks in the Toxics Release Inventory program  are being fixed as part of the massive spending bill Obama signed into law yesterday.

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mbowling2.JPGCross Lanes computer exec Martin R. Bowling was an expert at creating “buzz” and promoting people — including himself — on the Internet.

So when news broke earlier this week that Bowling, chief technical officer at Comar Inc. and Vec3,  had been sentenced to three years in state prison on computer fraud charges, many people who knew Bowling just figured it was part of some elaborate hoax he concocted.

Bowling’s supporters called and e-mailed the Gazette yesterday, questioning — and insisting, in some cases — that the Bowling story was a hoax.

Well, we’re here to tell — and show — you this wasn’t a hoax. Here are the documents filed in Bowling’s criminal case file in Kanawha County Circuit Court (thanks to Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. for scanning and uploading them.)

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