WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer chastised an EPA official for referring to the Elk River chemical spill as an accident.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works on Thursday, Mathy Stanislaus, an assistant administrator with the EPA, described the Jan. 9 spill as “the accident at the Freedom Industries facilities in West Virginia.”


California Senator Barbara Boxer said Thursday the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries spill was no accident.

Boxer (D-California) quickly challenged the assertion.

“It wasn’t, in my opinion—that leak wasn’t an accident. Would you want to reconsider using that word or would you still think it was an accident,” Boxer said.

Stanislaus tried to backtrack but Boxer continued to press him on the term.

“I don’t see that as an accident. I see it as a failure, as you say, of the equipment to hold the chemical,” stressed Boxer.

“I agree,” said Stanislaus.

“Good,” Boxer replied.

Boxer went on to say it wasn’t as if a truck crashed into the tank at Freedom and caused the leak, but rather the result of a faulty tank. She said the working group formed to devise better preparation and response plans hasn’t accomplished much.

“I’m looking for action here, not a lot of words,” she said. “So far I’ve seen a lot of words.”

The working group was already in place at the time of the Elk River chemical spill, but has become a major rallying point for Boxer, West Virginia U.S. Sen.Joe Manchin and others, in making headway toward protecting the environment.

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  • Todd

    Boxer couldn't find West Virginia on a map.

  • Charleston Cheese

    did you simpletons even read the article or is your reading comprehension just pathetic? she said having sub-standard is not an accident, it's disregard for the community. If having a leak due to substandard storage tanks was an "accident" then it was an accident that was just waiting to happen. Just because she is from a place that seems foreign to you sheltered people doesn't mean she can't know she's talking about. Jeez, she is looking out for us which no one can say about Capito, Tomblin or the WVDEP.

    • Shadow

      I am always suspicious of folks that make a conclusion before the analysis is done. I have yet to read an analysis of this tank failure, does anyone have a reference to one?

  • TLC

    Boxer is a rude bully. She is also dumb to say it wasn't an accident. Of course it was. Does she think this was on purpose? Bankrupting the company was their plan? Nut.

    • Shadow

      Give Boxer a break, if you were an accident, you should know one.

  • BAC

    So Boxer thinks Freedom did it on purpose so their company could be destroyed and their leadership prosecuted? She is a chronic idiot, indicative of how stupid California voters have become to elect the likes of her.

  • Ut Oh

    Speaking of all words and no action Barbara Boxer and the 49 other Senators and all the House of Reps. The talk but nothing good ever comes from it. Hell why didn't she just write her own report without the testamony, sounds like she has already concluded all the facts in her own mind...

  • Smitty

    Boxer really has me ticked off with her bullying tactics.
    I believe this was an accident. Why would Freedom "purposely" leak chemical into the river? I heard that the plants in Institute were having problems with busted pipes because of the weather at the same time.
    I will certainly agree that authorities should have been notified sooner and water consumption stopped right away.

  • tom

    So the haters see this as showboating and not someone concerned with clean water for America? Amazing that people can see a speck of sawdust in anothers eye but not a plank in their own.

    • Aaron

      Is someone who finds Boxer less than sincere a 'hater?'

      If so, I guess I'm a hater.

      • tom

        Kepp voting for Capito and Joe and we will have more of the same.

        • Aaron

          Tell me how either could have prevent any of what occurred.

          • Aaron


            How could the tank leaking have been prevented?

            Mind you, I'm not referring to the containment wall as I know how that could been prevented. My question is specifically addressed to the tank leak.

            What say you?

          • The bookman


            Accidents aren't preventable. But regulations aren't intended to prevent accidents. They are intended to mitigate the impact in the event they occur. In industry, accidents happen, and that is why these steps are taken in advance to minimize the impact to the environment.

            It is premature to definitively characterize this contamination as an accident or negligence or gross misconduct. So it is a semantic debate until we have all the evidence. So that really leaves us with Senator Boxer capitalizing on a sound byte opportunity and not really anything of substance any further. She has always conducted herself in that manner, and no one should be surprised by it. In fairness to her, however, many in DC on both sides of the aisle engage in such misbehavior. I don't like it when she does it, or Issa does it, or anyone else who lays in wait for that gotcha moment to grab the headlines. They're not tough guys, as much as they are the party's attack dogs. In the end those tactics get us nowhere, except farther apart.

            I yield back the balance of my time!

          • tom

            Accidents are not preventable, this disaster could have been prevented if our elected officials weren't as concerned about their business interests and were more concerned with it's citizens and clean drinking water. I believe most all elected officials showboat when they can but in this particular case I believe the statement of fact was that this could have been prevented and shows a correct statement on Boxers behalf.

          • The bookman


            This is WV. Of course I've voted for candidates from both parties. I would agree that Capito, and to a lesser degree, Manchin have been ineffective in Congress with no real legislation to hang their hat on. But why all the love for Rahall. His exclusion from your obvious disdain for lackluster performance is a little surprising. He has been there for nearly 4 decades. What say you, sir?

          • Aaron

            I'm a former Democrat turned Independent who voted for Ronald Reagan, both Bush's as well as Clinton and Obama before voting for Romney. In the WV governors race, I've voted for Jay, Caperton, Underwood, Wise, Manchin and Bill Maloney twice. As far as diversity in candidates go, I doubt you have anything on me.

            And I can't help but note that other than making anecdotal comments, you've yet to add anything of substance to the conversation. I don't want to say you are a partisan hack but to be honest, I don't see any evidence that would suggest otherwise.

            Do you have anything besides asinine comments or are you going to continue to spew tripe?

          • tom

            Caito's father was jailed for his crooked politics, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Capito and Joe must go, neither are capable regardless of party affiliation. I have voted for canidates from both parties, have you? I doubt it! Things are much better run in the 49th economy of the US vs the 7th largest economy of the world?Crawl back under your rock.

          • Aaron

            Without something more specific Tom and your unequivocal support for someone like Barbara Boxer, I'm not sure I can conclude anything other than your feelings are based on partisan politics.

            Your comment regarding California, as Bookman pointed out their massive failures (see Jefferson 51st state and California to split into 6 states) do nothing but add credence to that line of thinking.

            Focus man and think hard. What specifically could Capito, Manchin or any other politician have done to prevent the occurrence at Freedom Industries on January 9th?

          • The bookman


            You mean run the 7th largest economy into the ground! It is so sideways in California that there is a popular move afoot in that state to break it up into pieces as the populace sees their government as unable to manage the operations of the economy. So maybe you've given Boxer et al a bit much credit.

          • tom

            By not being in bed with the coal and chemical companies. Both would be in over their heads trying to help run the 7th largest economy in the world.

    • Beekeeper

      Not really. You will know a tree by it's fruit, and she's produced plenty of rotten fruit over the years.

  • ViennaGuy

    I doubt that Barbara Boxer has ever been to West Virginia, outside of possibly some sort of political pow-wow at the Greenbrier. She knows nothing about this state or its people.

    Memo to Barbara Boxer(and all California politicians): MYOB, we'll take care of ourselves.

    • reality check

      yeah, because we did such a good job with our water supply/Freedom Industries.

      • ViennaGuy

        I have not, and am not, dismissing the failures on the parts of Freedom Industries and the state; there is blame to be laid at the feet of both, and that blame has been discussed here and in other forums.

        However, Barbara Boxer has a history of being a bully and a blowhard when she thinks she can benefit politically from such behavior(or when she thinks her feathers have been ruffled). All that behavior does is make her look small-minded and petulant. She needs to grow up. Being a holier-than-thou bully isn't necessary and doesn't cut it.

      • reality check

        ...and i despise her - but still think your comment is absurd.

  • wv4evah

    An article obviously written to throw red meat to Boxer haters on this site. To focus on one trivial exchange..and not on the hearing overall, and comments made by other participants..without context..is irresponsible.

    • Aaron

      Here's all you need to know about Barbara Boxer


      On a side note when I was in the military, officers we had no respect for, we called by their rank instead of Sir or ma'am. I'm not surprised she doesn't know that.

      On that note, I really liked this one.


  • thornton

    I would say she is correct...it was more a failure than an accident. But, "failure" as she obviously intends the word, applies to the owners alone.....there was also a failure in inspection procedures, regulation, commonsense and on and on. ....from the leak onward.

    Still, Queen Boxer is using the incident in the manner of every politico....selfishly. A big improvement is if any opportunity on the political stump was audio and not video. Cameras are a bad deal re politicos.

  • Wirerowe

    With all due respect I do not believe that we have every had a political figure that came close to sinking to the level of Senator Boxer for outlandish irresponsible at time dangerous showboating

  • Aaron

    The gentleman should have said "Senator, you are correct in that the containment wall failed, allowing the chemical to leak into the river but the storage tank did not leak as a result of a failure. That tank leaked as a result of the ground shifting after freezing water from a ruptured water line and, which Freedom Industries had no control over."

    Any respect I might have had for this woman, I lost when she publically chastised an Army General for calling her ma'am. She’s a piece of work.

  • Ragweed

    Boxer needs to confront the problems in California, and stay out of West Virginia's business. She's just like a lot of career politicians. She thinks she's so great a person that she needs to meddle in everyone's affairs.

    Stay in California!

  • Bob

    I'm sure Barry Bledsoe would support a polluter since he is one.

    If your neglectful but you don't do it on purpose, it's an accident? Get real! And your running for office?

    I'm sure the people in Marion County are smart enough NOT to send you to Charleston.

    • Aaron

      Freedom was negligent in the construction of their containment walls but the tank leading was beyond their control. Unless of course you think we should all have control of water mains running under our property.

      • Butch

        Beyond their control to make certain their tanks and containment walls were in good condition? They knew they were substandard 3 MONTHS before it happened. http://bobcesca.thedailybanter.com/blog-archives/2014/02/freedom-industries-knew-their-tanks-were-substandard.html

        • Aaron

          Then only time I wear panties is on special occasions and them I go with thongs.

          Otherwise I go commando so no bunching.

          Anything else sonny boy?

        • Aaron

          I never said they were excused for the condition of the containment walls. Had they had concrete containment walks they would not have had to worry about cinderblocks cracking. Of course the responsible for The containment walls. I said essentially the same thing that was mentioned in your link.

          Saying that, it's my understanding the cause of the tank leak was due to shifting as a result of life ruptured water main. If that is true then how are they responsible for that?

          I'm stating there are two issues here. One was the tank leak itself. The second is the failure of the containment walls. Had the containment walls been up to standard as they should have been, there would have been nothing in the water.

          • Jason412

            Damn, it was a simple question no need to get your panties in a bunch. I just thought maybe you had read something I hadn't If I had read something that disputed their claim I would have posted it.

            I'm not saying it's untrue, but I also question anything Freedom says and question why no one else has even mentioned it in passing.

          • Aaron

            In all honesty Jason412, the waterline is the only explanation I've heard and other then Freedom, I don't know who else has said it.

            Riddle me this though boy wonder, if that is not the case, if the cause is otherwise known or not known, then why is the state in such an all fired hurry to dismantle the tanks and level the site? Why not simply empty the tank, do a complete investigation and find out what caused the tank to leak?

            What I would say with a certain degree of confidence is if there was a catastrophic failure of the tank, whether it was a welded seam separating or rust it would have been widely reported by now. The FBI's confined space entry team went into the tank in late January and we've heard nothing as to why the tank leaded. Why do you suppose that is?

            I've said all along that when nothing was reported until it came out that the governor ordered that site dismantled that something doesn't smell right here. In my personal opinion I think the state knows more then they're letting on and in the end, taxpayers will be left holding the bag on this whole fiasco.

          • Aaron

            That's the ONLY explanation I've seen. If you got something else, I'll happily read it.

          • Jason412


            As far as I remember it was only Freedom that said the water main break is what caused it. I cant recall any articles that quoted anyone but Freedom as saying that's what happened. If you have the link to one with DEP or someone saying that's what it was Id appreciate seeing it.

  • Barry Bledsoe

    Great...just what we need. The left wing extremist liberal Barbara Boxer meddling into WV business. She needs to worry about her own issues on the left coast.

    Without having seen any final results of the various investigations, to determine fault, cause or anything else, I would be willing to go so far as to say that this spill could have been caused by gross negligence on the part of the company. But I am 100% certain that the spill wasn't caused on purpose, which means it WAS an accident.

    • OldSkool

      Agreed Barry! Why is Boxer even involved in our business? The last thing WV needs is a left coast ultra liberal poking around in our affairs! Doesn't she have taxes to raise somewhere?

    • Butch

      It was an ACCIDENT? They ACCIDENTALLY ignored the inspection that was made 3 months before it happened. They are a victim of the weather?

      It is this ridiculous mentality that makes things like this happen. People are RESPONSIBLE for keeping things like their massive chemical tanks near a water intake system in good condition. When they do NOT, it isn't an ACCIDENT it is just irresponsible.

      Thank God you are not representing anyone but your own ignorant mentality. The people of WV deserve better than that type of thinking.

    • RogerD

      She's like most of the other politicians there in DC. Her goal is to see how she can use this situation to further her own career. Manchin and Rockefeller are of the same ilk.

      • BH

        Just about all of the US Congress, Democrat and Republican, exploit others for their own political gain. Including Shelley Moore Capito. This strategy is in no way unique to Senators Manchin and Rockefeller.