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Congress Votes Against Corporate Responsibility Hours Before the Charleston Spill

Scott Slesinger

Posted January 17, 2014

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About four hours before the disaster declaration in Charleston, WV, the House voted to make it easier for companies handling hazardous materials to NOT carry insurance in case of accidents.  The vote on the bill, H.R. 2279, was 225-188.

In my blog before the vote on the bill, I wrote:

" To protect the taxpayers, the law requires EPA to make sure those industries with risky profiles have insurance to cover such threats.  In many cases, companies have found ways to go bankrupt to avoid the cost of cleanup and to leave the burden to taxpayers."

Just two weeks later on January 17, 2014, Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the water diaster, declared bankruptcy.  In a country where student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, why should the House vote, including some members of the West Virginia delegation, to let companies off the hook and not carry insurance when they deal with dangerous materials?

I would like to hear members explain this one.

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Ashley Nedeau-OwenJan 21 2014 11:58 AM

This is easy! Personal responsibility. It is easy and simple and free of critical thinking to assign personal responsibility. A student loan debt is the sole property of a student. Corporate responsibility is a whole other thing. How far back do you go? Freedom Industries was incorporated in WV so do assign responsibility to everyone in West Virginia? Or do nail the CEO whose liability through corporate law is severely limited? And who carries the insurance? The corporation? Or the folks who are responsible for allowing the corporation to go forward, the folks who hold the charter? And if the folks who hold the charter, then do we assign responsibility to the civil servant who discharged the paperwork?
Or do we stop thinking about it altogether and stick an individual with student loan debt because it is the individuals and walk away from an issue we have to think about.

Surprising that only five Democrats voted for it. Didn't think so many were paying attention!

Scott SlesingerJan 21 2014 12:12 PM

The law is clear -- the corporations that are determined to be high risk because they use hazardous substances, needs to show through insurance or a bond, that if they become unable to pay to clean up damages the entity is responsible for, there is money to pay for it. Somewhat like car insurance. If you get hit by a drunk driver with $300 in assets, doesn't mean that is all you can recover.

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