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Boehner: Congressional oversight not needed in W.Va. spill

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House leaders on both sides of the aisle said Tuesday that Congress should not rush to pass new laws in the wake of a West Virginia chemical spill last week that left more than 300,000 without water.

“We have enough regulations on the books,” Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told reporters Tuesday. “I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people. Somebody ought to be held accountable here.”

Republicans have long been proponents of fewer regulations, but Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, also hesitated to say more rules are needed, saying he doesn’t know enough about the spill.

“Because I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know if there are new regulations that are necessary or if there are regulations in place that simply were ignored. Obviously, you can tell somebody this is against the rules or against the law, but it does not preclude them from doing it,” he said Tuesday. “The answer is I don’t have enough information yet to answer your question of whether I think new regulations are necessary.”

A licorice-smelling chemical spilled from a Freedom Industries coal processing plant into the Elk River, forcing hundreds of thousands of residents near Charleston, W.Va., to use bottled water and sending many to the hospital. The Chemical Safety Board has already launched a federal investigation into the spill.

When asked if Congress should hold hearings to find out more about what happened, Mr. Hoyer remained open to the possibility, but said state officials should take the lead.

“Sure. Frankly, I would think the governor of West Virginia and the state legislature in West Virginia would want to take the first crack at it and see what went on,” he said.

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