CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House Committee on Government Organization chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, has encouraged the state Department of Environmental Protection and Gov. Jim Justice's office work with counterparts in Maryland to ensure the site of Verso Corporation's Luke Paper Mill can be cleaned up and reopened by a potential new investor.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House Committee on Government Organization chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, has encouraged the state Department of Environmental Protection and Gov. Jim Justice’s office work with counterparts in Maryland to ensure the site of Verso Corporation’s Luke Paper Mill can be cleaned up and reopened by a potential new investor.
The request comes after the Maryland Department of the Environment announced Wednesday that it intends to sue Verso Corp. in federal court over seepages from the site into the North Branch Potomac River.
“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,” Chairman Howell said.
“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.”
The company’s paper mill straddles the West Virginia-Maryland border between Luke, Maryland, and Beryl, West Virginia. The company closed the mill last May, laying off nearly 700 workers in the process.
Chairman 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,” Chairman Howell 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.”