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The U.S. Chamber picks the wrong state for the next stop on its snake oil tour

To quote our friends at the Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Evan Bayh and Andy Card picked a bad place to bring their regulatory “reform” roadshow.

The posh Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is the next stop on the Chamber’s snake oil tour on Sept. 2. Local business leaders will hear from Bayh, a former U.S. senator from Indiana, and Card, White House Chief of Staff under George W. Bush, who will offer up a false choice between job growth and protecting families and communities from harm.

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.

West Virginians are too smart to by the snake oil that the modern-day hucksters will be trying to peddle.

“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 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 West Virginia. 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.

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. Now is exactly the wrong time to be talking about less regulation.

Visit the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards website for more information.