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Delegate Howell requests Governor Justice look into the Luke Mill cleanup issue

February 20th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Del. Gary Howell (R-Mineral) on Thursday encouraged the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Gov. Jim Justice’s office work with counterparts in Maryland to ensure the site of Verso Corp.’s Luke paper mill can be cleaned up and reopened by a potential new investor. The Cumberland Times News reports the request comes after the Maryland Department of the Environment announced Wednesday that it intends to sue Verso Corp. in federal court over alleged seepages from the site into the North Branch Potomac River.

Verso owns the mill, located in Luke, Maryland, and Beryl, with facilities spanning the Potomac River at the site. Paper products were manufactured there until Verso announced on April 30 the mill would close. It was subsequently shut down May 30, displacing hundreds of workers.

“My top priority since last year has been trying to find a way to get this site reopened and the nearly 700 people who lost their jobs back to work,” said Howell, who chairs the House Committee on Government Organization.

According to MDE, a black substance that may include contaminants from caustic and corrosive “pulping liquor,” coal ash or other undiscovered sources continues to seep from a riverbank at the paper mill site and into the river.

“If Verso has caused environmental damage, they need to fix it, and I’m hopeful our state regulators can work with their counterparts in Maryland to ensure this is done as quickly as possible,” Howell said.

Howell, who has been critical of Maryland regulators for their role in pushing the company to the point of shutting down the plant, said he would like West Virginia officials to work with Maryland leaders to ensure there’s no overreach in the pending federal court case.

“People are understandably angry with this company, and I want Verso to be required to come in and quickly clean up and fix any damage it has caused,” he said. “But what I want regulators to be careful of is doing something so aggressive that the company decides it would rather declare bankruptcy than deal with high punitive penalties from potential litigation.

“To be clear: I want Verso to foot the entire bill for fixing this, and that taxpayers are not forced to clean up their mess,” he said. “But overall, I would like this matter to be dealt with swiftly to ensure this property remains viable to future investment. Bringing back these jobs is critical, and I don’t want to see this site continue to sit idle as the company and state of Maryland engage in a lengthy court battle.”


9 Responses to “Delegate Howell requests Governor Justice look into the Luke Mill cleanup issue”

  1. February 20, 2020 at 2:54 pm, Brian said:

    This should shame the people in Annapolis that a politician from West Virginia cares more about jobs in western Maryland than they do! But it won’t the local politicians do their best but if a job doesn’t involve sitting behind computer screen they don’t want it in Maryland. If they can they will close the power plant in Mexico farms next,if they could they would close ATK even know it is in West Virginia. Maryland is trying to stop a manufacturing plant near martinsburg now .They are trying to stop a gas line to new plants in West Virginia now Verso has had many outside contractors in the plant every day since it closed trying to keep the plant in good condition . They sent all of the leftover black liquor to a paper mill in Covington va to be burned in their boiler. They have closed some of their other paper mills sold them and they are being reopened because there is a demand for pulp . But as long as the state hates blue collar jobs the people of the real western Maryland not frederick to hagerstown don’t have a chance


    • February 20, 2020 at 3:29 pm, Kevin said:

      > The hack from WV is just trying to protect a filthy polluter from WV – he is just the lip service guy. No one should take him seriously.


  2. February 20, 2020 at 3:56 pm, Ken said:

    Brian, You do know that Maryland began this action first, right? If anything, West Virginia smells money and has joined in for that reason only.

    As far as the state “hating blue collar jobs” American Woodmark is shaking their head in disbelief.


  3. February 20, 2020 at 4:25 pm, Brian said:

    If Maryland is successful in their Federal lawsuit and puts Verso out of business. Who in the hell is stuck with the cleanup cost then? The taxpayer Frosch is a piece of crap. He has plenty to take care of him Baltimore and ignores it. He’s too busy trying to make sure that Verso is dead once and for all.


    • February 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm, Kevin said:

      > So, Brian, who is stuck with the clean up of Frosh doesn’t sue? Duh! I guess you missed it – the Mill, sadly is out of business here and isn’t coming back. They left a mess, they need to be held accountable.


  4. February 20, 2020 at 5:05 pm, Dandy Don said:

    Yes, Kevin, Verso should be held accountable just as Luke, New Page, and Westvaco should have been held accountable in the past.

    If any person believes this environmental hazard has not been present for years, I have a beautiful .5 acre island in the North Branch to sell such a person.


  5. February 20, 2020 at 5:55 pm, Brian said:

    I have friends working at the paper mill right now. Cleaning up leftover material I have worked industrial maintenance for 30 years. I’ve worked in this paper mill and many other paper mills. They are trying their best to clean this up. They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions of dollars. On this paper mill since it’s been closed. To clean it up. They have been paying for many construction workers to be there. To work on the cleanup It’s not like they just walked away from it. This is a valuable asset to them. If they don’t clean it up, it’s worth noting. As I said, I work 30 years and industrial maintenance. Which means I work very little in, Maryland. Mostly I’ve worked in. Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana I’ve spent my life in motel rooms to make a living. Because of Maryland driving all the industry out.


  6. February 21, 2020 at 5:11 am, Ken said:

    Brian said: “Because of Maryland driving all the industry out.”

    And yet, Maryland is ranked the sixth best state to live in America overall while being fifth in opportunity according to USNews.

    In 2018, the latest figures available, 109,450 people worked in manufacturing jobs here in roughly 4,000 companies with an average salary of $78,510.

    CNBC ranks us thirty-first in business, which somewhat supports your opinion but claims we have the tenth best quality of life.

    My point is, Allegany County isn’t all of Maryland and honestly doesn’t represent the state. I relocated here 16 years ago and like it. Admittedly it’s not perfect and we do need to get our economy fixed.

    Where we differ is that I am not willing to let any employer poison the water my family drinks – and certainly not for jobs. We’ve already had more than enough of that over the last century,

    We’ve both been to Louisiana. Maybe the next time you’re there you might want to take a drive and think about if you’d like to raise your family in one of the bottommost ranked states on anyone’s list.


  7. February 21, 2020 at 11:55 am, Brian said:

    Just wanted to add this. I’m retired from the construction industry. But I get notifications of jobs. And there is work everywhere building new factories. I have lots of friends working in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Building new factories not a single. Damn. One of them is working in Maryland building a new Factory.


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