A West Virginia Candidate Got Kicked out the Capitol for Calling Out Big Oil. She’s Not Sorry.

Lissa Lucas thinks we need politicians who aren’t taking their marching orders from corporations.

Sasha Kramer March 8, 2018

Lissa Lucas is running for West Virginia legislature to take on corporate influence in politics.

Lis­sa Lucas, a pro­gres­sive Demo­c­rat run­ning for the West Vir­ginia House of Del­e­gates, cap­tured the nation­al spot­light Feb­ru­ary 9. At a pub­lic hear­ing on House Bill 4268, which would open up pri­vate land for oil and gas pro­duc­tion, Lucas read aloud a list of indus­try dona­tions to del­e­gates sup­port­ing the bill. Secu­ri­ty guards inter­rupt­ed her allot­ted 105 sec­onds and dragged her out.

Of all the things that our legislature could be working on, every year they seem focused on allowing corporations to take more of our rights away.

What made you speak out about the bill?

This was essen­tial­ly the main bill that I was run­ning to oppose. The indus­try has been push­ing for this bill for some time and just get­ting clos­er and clos­er to pass­ing it. So it’s kind of the bill I’ve been real­ly against.

I got to the pub­lic hear­ing super ear­ly, because I didn’t not want to be able to speak and I sat out­side the door before secu­ri­ty was even open,

The point I want­ed to make was that a lot of the indi­vid­u­als on the com­mit­tee should not even be vot­ing on this. They shouldn’t be able to take that mon­ey and then vote to give our rights away to cor­po­ra­tions. They are work­ing for cor­po­ra­tions; they have their march­ing orders.

Is your oppo­nent for office — incum­bent Jason Harsh­barg­er ® — one of those people?

He’s a nice guy. He’s wrong. I don’t real­ly have any­thing bad to say about him, oth­er than that he takes that money.

I think that if you work for Domin­ion Ener­gy Trans­mis­sion and you get 40 per­cent of your cam­paign mon­ey from ener­gy inter­ests it’s prob­a­bly a bad idea to vote on an ener­gy leas­ing bill. He should have recused himself.

How are you feel­ing about the expe­ri­ence now?

At the time it hap­pened, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I’m still kind of astound­ed it had this amount of impact for peo­ple. I’ve got­ten peo­ple from Nor­way say­ing, We’re so glad you’re doing this.”

I went to the teacher ral­ly at the Capi­tol the oth­er day and I expect­ed that there would be peo­ple there that I would know. Peo­ple rec­og­nized my face and came up and said thank you. That’s real­ly weird for me because I’m the type of per­son when I’m at a par­ty and I don’t know peo­ple I go into the oth­er room and make friends with the dog.

The thing that strikes me is that it wasn’t new infor­ma­tion that I had. I think that the data itself should have caused the out­rage and it’s dis­ap­point­ing to me that it took the pub­lic hear­ing dra­ma to bring it to the atten­tion of peo­ple. I was think­ing recent­ly as I was hik­ing around, it’s like they have slow­ly been boil­ing the frog and it’s only a mat­ter of time until the frog notices. Maybe that’s it.

You pose these issues as non-par­ti­san. Do you think Repub­li­cans will vote for you?

I’m receiv­ing some sup­port from Lib­er­tar­i­ans and Repub­li­cans. I’ve had a request for yard signs from a group of promi­nent Republicans.

Gas and oil have been here for­ev­er and ever. Peo­ple remem­ber what it was like when you sold your min­er­als and you could look for­ward to a wind­fall. But it’s dif­fer­ent now. If you have min­er­als on your land, you feel you’re a tar­get for out-of-state corporations.

You’ve writ­ten, West Vir­ginia func­tions more as a resource extrac­tion colony than a state.” What do you mean by this?

Peo­ple in office don’t look at who is receiv­ing the ben­e­fits and who is pay­ing the costs. For exam­ple, a big frack dump was just put in on the bor­der of Dod­dridge Coun­ty near the pub­lic drink­ing water sup­ply. If you got to put it some­where, why would you put it there? And why would your answer be, when asked about the loca­tion, that it’s sav­ing you mon­ey? They’re talk­ing about mak­ing their foot­print small­er, which is great — we all want to do that — but when they’re con­cen­trat­ing their impact on top of your com­mu­ni­ty it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter if it’s a small footprint.

One of my cam­paign pil­lars is chang­ing our pri­or­i­ties. Of all the things that our leg­is­la­ture could be work­ing on, every year they seem focused on allow­ing cor­po­ra­tions to take more of our rights away. Mean­while, we have peo­ple who don’t have potable water. My cam­paign is about get­ting us back on track toward help­ing the peo­ple who actu­al­ly live out here.

On March 5, after this inter­view was con­duct­ed, HB 4268 passed the leg­is­la­ture and went to the gov­er­nor’s office.

Sasha Kramer has a degree in envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies and has been pub­lished by Oak­land Insti­tute. She is a win­ter 2018 In These Times edi­to­r­i­al intern.
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