State, county officials discuss chemical spill in Washington

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two of the state’s top health officials met with members of Congress earlier this week to discuss continued funding for health studies concerning the Freedom Industries chemical spill.

Karen Bowling, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, and Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, met with four of five members of the state’s congressional delegation, stressing to them the need for continued assistance from federal agencies to determine if MCHM could have long-lasting health effects.

Senate Bill 373, often referred to as the “spill bill,” requires the Bureau for Public Health to further study the chemical spill and any health effects it may cause.

“I was very pleased with the response we received from our congressional delegation and the partnership Dr. Gupta and I have formed to make this case for necessary funding,” Bowling said. “With the passage of Senate Bill 373, DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health is charged with exploring further study regarding any long-term health effects of the spill into the Elk River.”

Bowling and Gupta met with Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s staff and Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and Nick Rahall to talk about the need for the funding of medical monitoring and animal studies to determine potential long-term effects on humans.

“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) looked at a narrow body of research in making the decision not to fund additional studies in West Virginia,” Gupta said. “Since CDC officials made their decision, there has been more research done. Secretary Bowling and I asked our congressional delegation to work with us to influence the CDC to reconsider its initial decision.”

In addition, the National Science Foundation has denied funding to three spill-related grants the local health department submitted. The CDC has implemented monitoring programs in other states.

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West Virginia’s two Republican representatives are taking the lead on energy.

Rep. David McKinley has been named vice chairman of the National Energy Efficiency Board’s Board of Directors of the Alliance to Save Energy. Members of that board include leaders in government, business and the nonprofit sector.

“Making America more energy independent has been one of my top priorities since coming to Congress in 2011,” McKinley said. “Energy efficiency makes sense for so many reasons. It creates jobs and benefits our economy while reducing energy costs. It’s an honor to be part of the Alliance to Save Energy.”

Meanwhile, a bill cosponsored by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

Capito voted to support bipartisan legislation that would expedite the export of liquefied natural gas and reduce the backlog of pending export applications at the U.S. Department of Energy. The department would be required, under House Resolution 6, to make a final decision on an application within 30 days of the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act review.

“New technologies have unlocked vast resources of natural gas across the country, and if you want to see what this can do for a region, look at Northern West Virginia,” Capito said. “The Marcellus and Utica shales mean more jobs for West Virginians. This bill will create jobs in West Virginia and across the country, grow our nation’s economy and strengthen our relationships with our allies.”

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Alex Mooney, Republican nominee for U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, can add another group to his growing list of endorsements.

The National Federation of Independent Business’ SAFE Trust said it supports Mooney’s “blend of small-business and legislative experience.”

“His being a member of NFIB is an additional credential that will prove beneficial in tackling the issues vital to Main Street, mom-and-pop enterprises that employ most working Americans and generate almost every new job,” said Lisa Goeas, vice president for political and grassroots at NFIB.

NFIB’s state director, L. Gil White, said Mooney has experience as a small business owner and knows the difficulties entrepreneurs face.

“As a small business owner, he has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to keep the doors open and paydays met,” White said. “And as a former state representative, he’s well acquainted with the difficulties small business owners face in their interaction with government and its regulations. He’s been a particular champion for the rights of independent contractors.”

The SAFE Trust, which stands for Save America’s Free Enterprise, is the political action committee of NFIB, which has more than 350,000 members nationwide, including 1,800 in West Virginia.

Compiled by Whitney Burdette

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