|BETWEEN THE LINES|
By David Hedges
Where Is Don Blankenship's Outrage?
When business publications regularly put West Virginia at 49th or 50th in one ranking or another, they go crazy.
The so-called "pro-business" element in our state routinely cites the latest ranking as reason for:
a) Cleaning up the courts
b) Changing the composition of the legislature
c) Cleaning up the courts (they cite this one so often I put it in here twice), or,
d) Shutting down The Charleston Gazette
They send out press releases, because most of them, like Don Blankenship, live elsewhere. They don't want to travel here to hold a press conference. They try to run West Virginia from their mansions out of state. Or sometimes they just have someone from the state chamber of commerce make their announcement for them.
But West Virginia recently placed 50th in a ranking of the 50 states, and there was nary a peep to be heard from the right-wing fringe that consistently ranks profits above people.
This ranking came from what is perhaps the nation's most respected business publication, Forbes magazine.
Forbes ranked West Virginia 50th - dead last - in a ranking of "green" states. The rankings appeared in the Oct. 17 issue and put Mississippi (you knew it), Louisiana, Alabama and Indiana just ahead of West Virginia.
About these states, the magazine said: "All suffer from a mix of toxic waste, lots of pollution and consumption, and no clear plans to do anything about it. Expect them to remain that way."
The rankings weighted six areas equally using data compiled by such organizations as the American Lung Association and the EPA, and considered each state's carbon footprint, air quality, water quality, hazardous waste management, policy initiatives and energy consumption.
The five states that fared the best were Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Maryland. Now sit back and take a deep breath of smelly air and consider this: New Jersey and New York were both in the top 10. Now who's wild and wonderful?
So where was Don Blankenship when the news about West Virginia's sorry ranking came out? Probably ripping the top off a mountain somewhere and dumping the rubble into the nearest stream.
He didn't have time to issue a statement.
And where was chamber of commerce mouthpiece Steve Roberts?
Probably writing up a new legislative proposal to make it harder for some single mother harmed by a quack doctor with six luxury cars to be reimbursed for her injuries, or to make it more difficult for West Virginia residents to stop out of state mineral owners from running roughshod over their property.
And what about Bray Cary, who bought up half the TV stations in the state so he could put himself on the air to promote his own right-wing political agenda?
Cary even flew to Oklahoma to interview the gas company owner after a record-setting verdict in Roane County. He did give the lawyer for the other side, a fellow who lives in West Virginia, five minutes to tell his side. That's fair and balanced media, West Virginia-style. Anyway, he's been silent.
And where, pray tell, has Governor Manchin been?
Maybe that "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia" slogan we dumped years ago and now want to bring back was out of line after all. If we are the most polluted state in the union, perhaps we had better go back to the "Open for Business" slogan, except change it to "Open for Business and Pollution that No One Else Would Tolerate."
But Governor Manchin isn't just sitting still. He has done something. At the urging of coal lobbyists, he has proposed that the state's list of 303 protected streams be reduced to 156.
Heck, when you're already 50th out of 50, what do you have to lose? Maybe they could add Washington, D.C., or Puerto Rico and we'd be 51st or 52nd.
You'd think being last in a ranking by a national business magazine would bring about a lot of fussing. It always has before.
Not this time. No one said a word.
Where is Don Blankenship when you need him?