Spill Case Fine Far Too Low
Federal officials sometimes seem overly eager to enforce some laws and regulations, at times inventing new ones to fit their own ideological agendas.
But when it comes to punishing the company responsible for a chemical spill that sickened many West Virginians and interrupted water service to about 300,000 customers, a distinct lack of enthusiasm has been shown.
Earlier this year, a hazardous chemical leaked into the Elk River at Charleston, from a Freedom Industries tank. Investigators found the company had not maintained basic safeguards against such a leak.
Such shoddiness threatening the health of enormous numbers of people has to be deterred, of course. One means of doing that is for federal regulators to charge substantial fines against violators. Last week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it was fining Freedom Industries $11,000 for two violations. One had nothing to do with the spill. The infraction linked to the disaster will cost the company just $7,000.
Freedom Industries, now in bankruptcy proceedings, no doubt pays individual lawyer’s bills for more than that. A $7,000 fine is so far out of proportion to what happened because of the company’s misbehavior as to be grimly laughable.
When it comes to shutting down coal mines and throwing thousands of West Virginians out of work, the government acts decisively.
When it can force electric bills for Mountain State residents up, Washington moves forcefully.
But when the question is deterring corporate failures that threaten the health of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians … well, not so much.