Leaders must balance jobs, environment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Anyone who has ever watched a tightrope walker at the circus knows just how precarious that job can be.

A few inches can often be the difference between a gruesome demise and roaring applause. Some people would question why bother in the first place but we suspect most tightrope walkers would say the rewards outweigh the risks.

Economic development and bringing industry into a community can follow those same lines of thinking. Community leaders must always strive to find that perfect balance between the need for quality jobs against damages an industry may cause harm to the environment.

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It would be wonderful if some clear solution that pointed leaders in the right direction existed, but unfortunately that is not the case.

Each issue must be evaluated on an individual basis to determine if the rewards of having an industry outweigh any potential damages to the environment.

This starts at the top of our government. Federal and state officials must enact the right laws and restrictions that allow facilities to operate but force them to do so in an environmentally friendly way.

Then those same leaders must hold business and industry to those standards.

Recently, this balancing act has come to the forefront with local groups protesting against plans of two companies that want to expand barge operations in West Virginia along the Ohio River.

Much of complaints seem to stem from the unsubstantiated fear that the expansions will harm the environment and make residents’ “backyard” less of a place to live.

So far, we have not seen much evidence to support those claims.

Last week, published reports incorrectly and unclearly classified Sunoco Chemicals Haverhill plant as one of the worst polluters of toxic waste along the Ohio River.

Though some of the information was later corrected, the damage was done to a company that employs 250 people from the community.

Sunoco maintains it meets all environmental requirements and we have not seen any evidence otherwise.

The ability of our county and all of southern Ohio to prosper may largely depend on the ability of our elected leaders to walk this tightrope.

Cynics often say politicians belong in the circus, we just hope they can doe well in the high wire act.