Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was the only member of West Virginia’s contingent in the U.S. House of Representatives to cross the aisle in support of a bill to limit pollution. Specifically, the bill addresses water and air pollution from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS.
Contamination from PFAS — which builds up in the human body and do not dissipate — has a particularly long history associated with illness and death in West Virginia, as indicated by a series of complaints against companies such as DuPont.
The chemical giant earlier this year agreed to create a $1 billion fund to address future PFAS liabilities after paying out hundreds of millions in lawsuits over PFAS contamination. Pollutants from the company’s manufacture of Teflon products were linked to cancer and other chronic illnesses and believed to have caused massive harm in Ohio and West Virginia, resulting in a lengthy legal battle chronicled in multiple news articles, and the 2019 film “Dark Waters.”
So, who would be against reducing those pollutants and establishing a national drinking water standard? Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, both R-W.Va., of course. While McKinley joined 23 other Republicans in voting with 218 Democrats to pass the legislation, Mooney and Miller were unmoved, regardless of the tragic history in the state they supposedly represent.
In explaining his vote, Mooney said the proposal was too much of a “one-size-fits-all” solution, while Miller took up the similarly opaque cry of federal overreach and lamented that the bill could have a negative impact on manufacturers. You know, manufacturers like DuPont.
That’s not to say there aren’t some concerns about the legislation, although most come from industrial interests or water providers who likely will pass rate hikes on to customers if they’re held liable for enforcing new, better water quality standards. But this should have been an easy call for Mooney and Miller.
We don’t agree with every stance McKinley takes, but this is at least the third time this year he’s stood up for something important while Mooney and Miller have cowered from responsible action. They both voted against certifying election results hours after the U.S. Capitol had been attacked. Months later, they both voted against a bipartisan commission to investigate that incident. And now, they’re against a bill to protect people from pollutants that have a clear history of harming their constituents.
McKinley’s action on all of these issues has been commendable. It’s disheartening that West Virginia’s other two House representatives are not only unmoved by violence and existential threats to democracy, but also cannot bring themselves to break ranks on an issue that hits so close to home.
It’s a low bar, but Mooney and Miller won’t even try to clear it.