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On the News With Thom Hartmann: West Virginia Is Dealing With Another Coal-Related Toxic Spill, and More

West Virginia is dealing with another coal-related toxic spill, and people are finding out the hard way about the real dangers of fossil fuels.

In today’s On the News segment: West Virginia is dealing with another coal-related toxic spill; Florida Republicans blocked efforts to make voting easier for college students; Washington state Governor Jay Inslee is suspending that state’s death penalty; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. West Virginia is dealing with another coal-related toxic spill, and people are finding out the hard way about the real dangers of fossil fuels. Yesterday, news broke that West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a coal slurry spill in Kanawha County. Residents are still dealing with the effects of the Freedom Industries’ chemical spill that happened a month ago, and now they’re learning that a broken pipe at the Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant has spewed more toxic sludge into one of their waterways. A West Virginia DEP spokesperson told the Charleston Gazette that the slurry spill can be characterized as “significant,” although they say that there is no immediate threat to drinking water. Considering that residents are still feeling the effects of the first spill, and fighting to get complete and accurate information, it’s unlikely that they’re going to trust risk assessments from state officials. According to Eco News, the coal slurry contains a chemical called Flomin 110-C, which in turn contains MCHM. That is the same chemical that contaminated the Elk River, which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of West Virginia Residents. This is the third coal-related spill in a single month. How much more evidence do we need before we end our addiction to fossil fuels?

In screwed news… Last week, Florida Republicans blocked efforts to make voting easier for college students, and now they’re going after minorities. On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Board of County Commissioners in one Florida county voted to close one-third of their voting sites. The polling places they closed just happen to be in minority districts. This decision came directly from Florida’s Republican Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett, and it was approved even in the face of strong public opposition. During the public comment period, every one of the ten speeches called on the commissioners to protect voting rights, and groups like the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that fewer precincts will decrease voter turnout. The fact is, that’s the exact result that Republicans are aiming for. They know that they stand a better chance at winning when fewer people show up to cast a ballot, and they have no problem denying people voting rights if it means they get a little more political power.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Yesterday was the “Day the World Fought Back.” An international coalition of websites, human rights groups, and Internet users took part in a global action to sign and promote 13 “Necessary and Proportionate Principles” they want enacted to protect our privacy. Groups around the world are fighting back against internet surveillance in various ways, including lawsuits against government spying agencies, calling for investigations on spying programs, and organizing national days of action. Millions of people got involved in the Day we Fight Back in countries ranging from France to Uganda to the United Kingdom, and they proved that privacy is concern throughout the world. The 13 Principles call on states to recognize that government spying threatens our privacy, to ensure that technological advances do not interfere with the private lives of citizens, to put in place transparent and rigorous oversight, and to enact protections for whistleblowers. These principles are vital to protecting our privacy, and we must continue fighting back until they are enacted.

According to, there is another wave of radiation increasing levels throughout our nation, and levels could spike over the next few days. Hellertown, Pennsylvania is reporting 51 counts per minute, with spikes of 69, and Huntsville, Alabama is averaging 34, with highs of 62 counts per minute. Rapid City, South Dakota is sitting at 44 counts per minute, with spikes of 68, and Lakewood, Colorado is hovering at 65, with highs up to 98 counts per minute. Chino Valley, Arizona is averaging 53 counts per minute, with spikes of 79, and Sitka, Alaska is sitting at 27, with highs of 123 counts per minute.’s alert level is 100 counts per minute, however they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee is suspending that state’s death penalty. On Tuesday, Governor Inslee said he hopes that this decision helps state officials “join a growing national conversation about capital punishment.” According to the Associated Press, the Democratic governor issued a written statement explaining his decision. He wrote that the application of the death penalty is unequal and inconsistent, and said, “There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment. There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death, there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.” Right now, there are nine men awaiting execution in Washington state, but Governor Inslee will issue a reprieve if one of those cases comes to his desk. Although the barbaric practice of execution should be illegal throughout our nation, it’s good to see Washington added to the growing list of states that recognize it’s time to put an end to the death penalty.

And finally… If you think airport security is tough in the US, you won’t believe how strict the officials are in London. According to one air traveler, the security staff in Heathrow airport confiscated the miniature gun from her son’s cowboy Woody doll. The Reddit user posted a picture of the teeny-tiny weapon being inspected by security officials, along with the comment, “I have traveled the world with Toy Story’s Woody, taking pics for my son. At Heathrow, security just confiscated his ‘weapon.’ Keep the world safe boys.” London’s Department of Transport would not comment on the specific incident, but said, “Airports and airlines can use their discretion to remove any items being carried in hand luggage when they believe it may be perceived as a threat.” Of course it’s important for officials to keep travel safe, but you have to wonder if next they’ll even make toy dolls take off their shoes.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, February 12, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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