U.S. Chamber of Commerce Makes Tour Stop at Posh Resort, Attacks Regulations That Protect West Virginia Miners and Families

On Sept. 2, Political Celebrities Bayh, Card Will Be Selling Wrong Message on Public Safeguards

September 1, 2011

Contact: Rich Robinson, Public Citizen, (202) 588-7773 or rrobinson@citizen.org
Brian Gumm, OMB Watch, (202) 683-4812 or bgumm@ombwatch.org

(WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va.) – When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce brings its anti-regulatory “road show” to the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on Sept. 2, local business leaders will hear from Evan Bayh, a former U.S. senator from Indiana, and Andy Card, White House Chief of Staff under George W. Bush. The pair will offer up a false choice between job growth and protecting families and communities from harm. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) urges West Virginians to support strong public safeguards and reject corporate interests that would jeopardize public protections.

By hiring a couple of political celebrities to sell its pro-Big Business agenda, the Chamber is trying to sell the dangerous notion that regulatory protections are bad for America. But regulatory safeguards are critical to ensure clean water, safe workplaces, a secure financial system, safer consumer products and much more.

“Oversight in the workplace is important to every working American,” said former mineworker Stanley Stewart, a West Virginia resident and survivor of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in April 2010. “If anyone believes the coal industry will voluntarily police itself and operate safe mines without federal and state regulators watching them, they need walk in my shoes and relive my memories of the hell at Upper Big Branch.”

Regulatory lapses can causes serious illness or even death, and nowhere is that more evident than last year’s tragedy at the Upper Big Branch mine. An independent report on the incident from a panel led by former federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) head J. Davitt McAteer found MSHA “failed to use all the tools at its disposal to ensure that the company was compliant with federal laws.”

Regarding the environment, the problem in West Virginia has never been too much regulation. Advocates have struggled to persuade state agencies to enforce the regulations that are already in place to curb the worst excesses of the mining companies. For example, according to the advocacy group Appalachian Mountain Advocates, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has been taken to court repeatedly to force the agency to adequately enforce Clean Water Act standards in the state and regulate pollution flowing from mining sites.

“A recent poll conducted in West Virginia shows that protecting the state’s waters from the effects of mountaintop removal mining is an overwhelming priority of the citizens of this state,” said Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “The Chamber’s road show won’t change the minds of people who have seen up close and personal the devastation that results from ignoring these important regulations. These rules are vital in protecting our environment and health, and they must not only be maintained, but strengthened.”

Added Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, “When they finish spouting propaganda to business leaders at a posh, manicured resort, Andy Card and Evan Bayh might want to visit other West Virginians. The survivors and families of victims of mine disasters at Upper Big Branch, Sago and Aracome might remind them why West Virginia and the nation need tougher rules and enforcement to combat corporate recklessness and wrongdoing.”

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards maintains that the Upper Big Branch explosion, the BP oil spill disaster, outbreaks of E. coli and the Wall Street financial collapse are all examples of the cost of deregulation and the need for strong public oversight of corporations.

“Evan Bayh and Andy Card both know from their years of government service that these charges of ‘overregulation’ are the same old complaints the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recycles every few years, regardless of the job situation,” said OMB Watch President Katherine McFate. “It’s sad to see them working for a project designed to undermine the environmental, health and safety standards that protect the well-being of West Virginians and all Americans.”

For more information, visit www.ChamberSnakeOilTour.org and www.SensibleSafeguards.org.

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is an alliance of consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, along with concerned individuals who believe that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all. For more information about the coalition, go to www.sensiblesafeguards.org