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  February 14, 2018

West Virginia Woman Removed From Legislature After Exposing Fossil Fuel Contributions to Lawmakers

A woman drove 100 miles to West Virginia's state capitol to testify against invasive drilling legislation, but was pulled off the House floor for highlighting how fossil fuel money corrupts politics, Ben Norton reports.
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Ben Norton is a producer and reporter for The Real News. His work focuses primarily on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, media criticism, and movements for economic and social justice. Ben Norton was previously a staff writer at Salon and AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.


Ben Norton: A scandal in West Virginia underscores just how much corporations control politics in the United States and what little influence working people have over the laws that govern their lives. On the morning of Friday, February 9th, a woman in West Virginia drove 100 miles to the state capital to testify against the bill sponsored by the oil and gas industry that will let fossil fuel companies drill on people's land without their consent.

Lissa Lucas: I'd also like to point out that the people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry and people who are going to be voting on this bill are also often paid by the industry.

Ben Norton: Lissa Lucas was physically removed from the hearing after naming lawmakers who have received large financial contributions from fossil fuel companies and who support the invasive drilling legislation.

Lissa Lucas: On the judiciary committee, Charlotte Lane, about $10,000 from gas and oil interests, including AEP, Marathon, FirstEnergy, Dominion, EQT, and I could go on. Next, let's talk about John Shott.

Ben Norton: After Lucas read out the fossil fuel money taken by the House Judiciary Committee's Chairman, John Shott, he interrupted her and in an attempt to silence Lucas, claimed her disclosure of this public information is a form of personal attack.

Lissa Lucas: Now, let’s talk about Jason Harshbarger-

John Shott: Miss Lucas, we ask no personal comments be made. If you want to talk about .

Lissa Lucas: This is not personal comments. These-

John Shott: It is a personal comment and I’m going to call you out of order if you’re talking about individuals on the committee. So, if you would, just address the bill. If not, I'll ask you to please step down.

Lissa Lucas: Jason Harshbarger took $3500, about-

John Shott: Could you remove-

Lissa Lucas: 40% ... his money comes ...

Ben Norton: The committee then cut Lucas' mic and pulled her off of the House floor.

Lissa Lucas: FirstEnergy, next [inaudible] Energy. I want to finish.

John Shott: You're out of your mind.

Lissa Lucas: Drag me off then. People deserve [inaudible 00:02:03] people and not corporations. [inaudible] personal attack using public information. I'm very sorry that this [inaudible] come for you. Montani semper liberi.

John Shott: The next speaker would be Julie Archer.

Ben Norton: People testifying at the public hearing were only given 1 minute and 45 seconds to speak. Lissa Lucas still had 30 seconds remaining, however, when she was interrupted and forced out. Lucas pointed out the irony that people who's homes will be drilled by fossil fuel companies without their consent are given less than two minutes to voice their concerns while lawmakers party with corporate lobbyists.

Lissa Lucas: And I have to keep it short, simply because the public only gets a minute, 45, while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whisky and wine and talk for hours to the delegates.

Ben Norton: Lucas was referring to an event held two nights before the public hearing, a legislative reception hosted in Charleston by the Shale Energy Alliance, titled "Whiskey, Wine, and Policy." Lissa Lucas, who is currently running for State House in West Virginia, told the Washington Post, "I feel like no one's listening to us in rural areas. Those pipelines will go through your property whether you're a Republican or Democrat or libertarian." Reporting for the real news, I'm Ben Norton.


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