Water crisis panel taps into need for public focus

An editorial from The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes we waste time searching for the truth. Occasionally you just need to let go of your opinions.

Or perhaps, let ’em fly.

That’s what we heard at a recent symposium sponsored by the WVU Environmental Law Society and the law school’s Center for Sustainable Energy and Development.

The event focused on the Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated tap water for 300,000 people in a nine-county region of the state.

All too often, we hear quite the opposite of the truth or honest opinions from speakers at many such forums.

Especially those sponsored by certain industries and corporations.

Oh, some are quick to condemn government and may even acknowledge mistakes, when pressed.

But they certainly never urge the public to pressure the government, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in this instance, to enforce regulations.

Nor do they spotlight the influence of hired guns — paid lobbyists — on our leaders and our laws.

Or call for labeling every chemical that might threaten a water supply as hazardous and insist it be treated as such.

And they would certainly not admit they don’t know anything about such chemicals as they’re storing.

Yet, those were the kinds of truths that emerged from this forum, although the philosophy of law or any other kind of philosophy was actually not under discussion.

Still, we were struck by this forum’s parallels to what one 19th century German philosopher once termed the stages of truth.

He said, “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident.”

Our newspaper never tires of calling on the public to pressure elected officials and public agencies to do their jobs. The fact that the DEP overlooked more than 10,000 violations by one coal company — did not even open the reports — is not lost on us.

Neither is the fact that anyone who calls for cleaning up the DEP is immediately targeted by some industries.

As much as the state Division of Highways is now under public pressure to maintain and repair our roads, the DEP should be added to this list.

One law professor at this symposium evoked a former federal judge’s description of who’s to blame for what he called this “climate of lawlessness.”

That former jurist pointed a finger at what he called institutionalized passivity.

That translates into a public willing to sit back and let things happen.

The truth doesn’t always set us free, but it at least deserves our attention.

Click here for The Dominion Post e-edition.


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