CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — 66th District Delegate Paul Espinosa knew he would have detractors when it was announced this week that he has been selected as Rockwool’s voice in the Eastern Panhandle.
“I wasn’t so naive to think that I wasn’t going to be demonized,” Espinosa said on Wednesday’s Panhandle Live, heard on MetroNews affiliates WEPM and WCST. “I mean frankly, the undisputed evidence that this facility is safe doesn’t really match some of the assertions that are being made out there.”
The Jefferson County delegate taking the public affairs manager position with the Danish insulation company wasn’t something he had planned.
“I became aware early last month that they were looking for someone that had strong ties in the community. Someone who was very engaged in the community to be that local point of contact.”
Rockwool was originally seen as an economic driver, bringing as many as 150 jobs to the county, but some members of the community are concerned with the health impacts associated with the plant’s emissions as well as its impact on the environment. The site is located close to three schools.
Among his critics are those already opposed to Rockwool. Shaun Amos of Concerned Citizens Against Rockwool Ranson called it an attempt by the company to buy influence.
“Jefferson County Vision is sickened by Rockwool’s continuing campaign to buy influence in our County where the vast majority of citizens have opposed the siting of their proposed toxic heavy industry operation. Today’s announcement of their intent to employ Delegate Paul Espinosa as a public relations manager is another example of their disregard for the will of the people, and their willingness to buy influence wherever possible.” -Facebook post, Concerned Citizens Against Rockwool Ranson
Aaron Hackett, who is running for the 66th Delegate seat in next year’s election, said he is concerned about a sitting Delegate being on the payroll of a multinational corporation.
“Congrats to Paul Espinosa. He’ll need the job when we win this race and kick him out of the legislature.”
Espinosa’s colleague in the House, 65th District Delegate Sammi Brown stopped short of a personal attack, but said she has concerns.
“To have a sitting representative openly not only endorse, but be the spokesperson of a contentious corporation doesn’t seem like it bodes well to truly representing the voice of people.”
For his part, Espinosa said during Wednesday’s interview he would offer to recuse himself should any legislation move forward regarding manufacturing or related to Rockwool to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.