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Rick Steelhammer: If making the Superfund priority list is good news, how bad can things get?

You know you’re living in a state of diminished expectations when your governor calls a news conference to proudly announce that a West Virginia chemical dump site had been ruled vile enough to be placed on Superfund’s national priorities list.

Gov. Jim Justice has been back-slapping his new friends at the former coal-killing EPA with the enthusiasm one would expect to be reserved for the announcement of a deal to carve out a new 60-mile-long lake or two for upscale shoreline development, bass fishing and, uh, flood control.

Now under GOP management and with a coal guy at the helm, the Trump EPA green team is poised to finish the job of ridding Minden of cancer-causing PCBs that the EPA started addressing back in 1984, but failed to complete under 16 years of Democratic rule — and 20 years of Republican leadership.

With the EPA’s proven track record of not getting the job done in Minden for the last 35 years, regardless of who lives in the White House, the Governor’s Mansion, or a house in Lewisburg, I am not optimistic that the cleanup will end any time soon.

While striving to mediate a public health issue is a good thing, getting Minden back to where it was 34 years ago is not exactly an economic development driver. To bring some porkier federal infrastructure projects home to West Virginia, the governor may want to consider talking up the Space Force to his colleague in the White House, while showing him some drone images of scarred, barren, other-worldly post-mining, pre-reclamation landscapes.

Dozens of training ranges for Rover-type overland exploration vehicles would be easily accessible for Space Force landing crews, without having to practice costly, dangerous launches.

We even have some places identified with space-appropriate names, like Pluto in Raleigh County, Vulcan in Mingo, Zenith in Monroe, Meteor in Wayne, Star City in Monongalia, Sun and Red Star, both in Fayette, Rocket City in Mineral and Armstrong’s Landing in Mason County.

And if the town of Tango, in Lincoln County, is big enough for a roadside sign, a careful erasure of its last letter should make thirsty space force cadets feel right at home.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

Funerals for Monday, January 27, 2020

Davis, Valerie - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Hamrick, Leonard - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Hughes Jr., Denver - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keen, Cora - 2 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Lazear, Elizabeth - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Masters, Delores - 1 p.m., Glen Ferris Apostolic Church, Glen Ferris.

Milroy, Miller - 11 a.m., Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Petro, Edith - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Phelps, Herbert - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Stanley, Gary - 1 p.m., Pryor Funeral Home, East Bank.

Stewart, Donna - 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, South Charleston.

Walker, Iva - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Wilkinson, Catharine - Noon, Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.

Williams, Joseph - 3 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.