CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice today released a statement, condemning a recent series of misleading reports by WSAZ-TV on Ethylene Oxide (EtO) emissions in the Kanawha Valley:
“I want to be clear, if there were ever a situation that placed West Virginians in danger from any chemical emissions, my administration would wage a whole-of-government response and correct the situation as fast as possible. However, when it comes to Ethylene Oxide emissions in the Kanawha Valley, that is not what is occurring.
“The level of unnecessary alarm that these stories are causing the good people of West Virginia is shameful. Writing misleading articles with salacious headlines causing unreasonable panic to the public is irresponsible journalism. Case in point: their latest investigation series, titled ‘Cancer-Causing Chemicals.’
“This investigation (which premiered after the Super Bowl to capitalize on ratings) claims that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is doing nothing about Ethylene Oxide emissions in the Kanawha Valley. This allegation is an effort to scare more people into watching their program. In reality, our DEP is going above and beyond, actively sampling the air quality of the area in question, even though all of the facilities that emit EtO in the Kanawha Valley are currently in compliance with the terms of their permits.
“The report also tries its best to make it sound as though the DEP has intentionally withheld information from the public when that is simply not the case. The report noted that the DEP asked the U.S. EPA to re-evaluate its standards for this chemical in early 2020, then claimed the DEP waited a year-and-a-half to notify the public of the potential danger for the first time. This is completely untrue. The report completely ignored the fact that the DEP sent a statewide press release in December 2019 (before sending its letter to the EPA) titled ‘WVDEP working with EPA to address issues involving ethylene oxide.’ The embarrassing thing for WSAZ is that four email accounts associated with their station opened and viewed that email, including the main newsroom email account, which opened the release over 30 times, and yet, this crucial information was left out of the final report. WSAZ has full editing power to pick the facts that fit their narrative and leave out the ones that don’t.
“Today, our DEP put out a lengthy response to these reports, reaffirming their commitment to monitoring EtO emissions in Kanawha Valley. I congratulate Secretary Ward for correcting the record today and for his handling of the situation.
“Meanwhile, the story’s author – Brendan Tierney – is an inexperienced kid in over his head playing the role of a DC reporter. Brendan rushed me yesterday in the Capitol, demanding that I force DEP Secretary Harold Ward into an interview so he could make him the face to blame for this whole situation. But as I told Brendan, I have full confidence that Secretary Ward and the DEP are doing the right thing to keep West Virginians safe and informed of the real facts.
“The ambush tactics have become a repeated pattern with this reporter and this station. About two months ago, Brendan sprung a ‘gotcha’ interview on me, suggesting that I needed to force more vaccine mandates on West Virginians, even though I’ve always been against such mandates. Before that, Brendan did another story that was critical of a bill I proposed and signed, requiring private companies to offer medical and religious exemptions from vaccine mandates. WSAZ also has an ulterior motive with these stories. They are owned by Atlanta-based broadcasting company Gray Television, which imposed its own vaccine mandate and terminated employees who did not comply; a fact that was never disclosed in any of their vaccine stories.
“I always expect full transparency from my members of my administration and I always strive to be transparent myself, which is why this pattern of reporting, in particular, is disappointing when we should all be pulling the rope together, as West Virginians, to promote the goodness and prosperity being seen in our state right now.”