No One Who Gives Away Free Water Can Be Evil

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 13 2014 11:38 AM

No One Who Gives Away Free Water Can Be Evil

Exhibit A: Daily Kos diarist "dharmafarmer" writes on Jan. 11 about the chemical spill in West Virginia, the disaster that has left hundreds of thousands of people without fresh water.* It's a hop, skip, and jump to link Freedom Industries, the source of the spill, to Koch Industries.

In 2008, Freedom Industries was specially selected by Georgia-Pacific Chemicals as a distributor of G-P's Talon brand mining reagents for West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Minnesota, Kentucky and Michigan.  
Georgia-Pacific Chemicals is, of course, a subsidiary of Georgia-Pacific, which was acquired by Koch Industries in 2005.  

Exhibit B: a New York Times story from today about the questions raised by the disaster.

West Virginia law does not require inspections for chemical storage facilities — only for production facilities... “West Virginia has a pattern of resisting federal oversight and what they consider E.P.A. interference, and that really puts workers and the population at risk,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a lecturer in environmental health at George Washington University.

Exhibit C: a proud press release from Americans for Prosperity, the activist group chaired by David Koch, telling the media of a campaign to distribute fresh water in West Virginia.

"It is so exciting to serve our fellow West Virginians at this crucial time of need," explained Wendy McCuskey, West Virginia state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation. "We have had multiple residents tell us that they are picking up water for elderly neighbors who are not mobile and need clean water. We are so happy to be able to meet their need for clean water and ease this very difficult time for West Virginia families."

Complete with photos:

PR problem solved! (AFP hasn't answered my irritating question about the PR origins of the water handout.)

UPDATE: AFP's Adam Nicholson explains the timing, which predates the media cage-rattling about Freedom Industries.

We were actually already planning to launch our WV chapter this Monday and had already sent a media advisory and email when we learned of the chemical spill. To provide context, we were at our all staff meeting off-site, and I was with Wendy when she got the first texts about the spill. I had already purchased my airfare to fly out to Charleston for the launch events and was working with Wendy on plans for introducing her to state reporters.
Within a  few hours of learning of the spill we decided that not only would we postpone our chapter launch, but also do something to help the residents in need. Twelve hours after news first broke we had already purchased a truck full of water and had staff planning to drive out to WV to manage the efforts.

*Correction, Jan. 13, 2014: This post originally misstated the date on which a Daily Kos blog post was written.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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