Tomblin Huffman and the Patriot Coal Spill

MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval was astonished by the bad timing of Patriot Coal’s spill of 100,000 gallons of coal slurry, which blackened six miles of Fields Creek in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

The spill came less than a month after the spill of 10,000 gallons of a toxic chemicals into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water of 300,000 Charleston residents.

“The timing could not be worse for this,” Kercheval said. “What’s going on is causing long term damage to this state and this region.”

Kercheval’s first guests on this morning’s show were West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Randy Huffman, Tomblin’s Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

During the 2012 election, Tomblin was a beneficiary of Patriot Coal’s largesse, taking in more than $20,000 in campaign contributions from company executives and political action committees.

Kercheval didn’t ask the Governor about the political contributions and whether they had any influence on the Tomblin administration’s well documented policy of deregulation of coal, chemical and natural gas.

But he did ask Huffman about the “bad timing” of the spill.

“The last thing I wanted to hear yesterday morning was that there is a slurry spill,” Huffman said. “People have been through a lot. People are uneasy about their water. And then to have this happen on top of that — it’s unacceptable. But once again, it happened. And we are doing everything we can to get the environment cleaned up as quickly as possible and then to investigate and take the appropriate measures with the company.”

West Virginia Citizen Action Group’s Norm Steenstra said that while Huffman is a nice enough guy, it’s time that he and his boss, Governor Tomblin, consider resignation.

“It’s a failure of leadership,” Steenstra said. “They have created a culture of non enforcement. North of here, huge amounts of water are being ruined by fracking. And south of here, there are many impoundments that are holding chemicals. And the mountaintop removal is destroying the water south of here. It’s not just the chemical spill or the slurry spill.  It’s a statewide culture of non enforcement. “

“The blame starts at the top,” Steenstra said. “That’s why they ought to resign. There has always been a cozy relationship between the coal industry and the Governor. Hoffman serves at the will of the Governor. He just follows orders. It’s no longer the Department of Environmental Protection. It has become the Division of Environmental Permitting.”

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