Is There Corruption in West Virginia at the Highest Level of Government ?

Industry/Politicos in Bed Together

Charleston Gazette editorial of June 23, 1998

To reduce air pollution that Americans breathe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to lower the nitrogen oxide emission limit for coal-fired power plants in West Virginia and 21 other states.

Gov. Underwood and other coal-state governors fiercely oppose the EPA plan. Together, they're drafting an alternative proposal that would allow more pollution.

Meanwhile, coal firms, power utilities and the United Mine Workers also are fighting the EPA. They've formed a team called the Alliance for Constructive Air Policy (ACAP), which outlined a third plan.

Here's the sneaky part: Underwood's staff evidently urged the industry officials to pretend to oppose the governors’ plan when it’s announced, to create a false public impression that the governors really are cracking down on pollution - when, actually, they're doing what the industry wants.

The Roanoke Times [see the Roanoke Times article in this issue] obtained an e-mail which a UMW lawyer sent to 117 members of ACAP and another coal organization, the Midwest Ozone Group.

The lawyer relayed this advice from Gov. Underwood's top aide: "I had another opportunity to speak with Corky DeMarco this morning about the governors’ strategy to sell their package ...

"When the proposal is unveiled, he believes it would be most helpful if ACAP, MOG and other utility groups could audibly grumble about the stringency of the proposal, while acknowledging that they can probably live with it.

"He sees a lot of benefit from us positioning the governors to the left of our position, even if the proposal actually resembles the ACAP position (which he assured me it does with a few ‘minor’ alterations).

"Consequently, utilities should be prepared to complain about the costs and the difficulty of complying with the established deadlines, but he obviously does not want us to oppose the proposal.

"Corky, and perhaps other state representatives, would like to meet with ACAP members the week of June 29 to plot our political strategy for the month of July ..."

After the damning e-mail became public, DeMarco denied plotting in secret with coal interests. He said an "offhand comment" by him was misconstrued. The Daily Mail quoted DeMarco as saying "with a chuckle" that there's no conspiracy.

We don't think there's anything to chuckle about. We think the Statehouse was caught red-handed in an attempt to deceive the public. Last fall, reporter Ken Ward Jr. found that utility lawyer David Flannery and his former law partner, state air pollution chief John Johnston, had teamed up to write a sample state news release attacking the EPA.

Obviously, the Underwood administration is totally in bed with out-of-state coal corporations and their top customers. _