Water Policy News: Second Week of the 2020 Legislative Session

Easy Action for Clean Water

Each week of the legislative session, we share an easy action for clean water, it only takes a few minutes and it is the most urgent call to action.

Week 2: Contact your delegates and let them know you support the Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020, HB4542.

Join Environmental Advocates at the Capitol for E-Day – Tuesday, 1/28

E-Day at the Legislature, Tuesday, January 28, is a great opportunity for you to get involved with hands-on civic engagement! E-Day is hosted by the West Virginia Environmental Council and during the event you can meet with environmental organizations who are members of the Council, including WV Rivers. Discover the importance of civic engagement, take part in citizen lobbying, and learn about environmental initiatives and how you can get involved!

Can’t stay the whole day? Then consider stopping in for the rally at 12:00PM in front of the Senate Chamber to hear from environmental lobbyists, legislators, and Tracy Danzey, the keynote speaker. Tracy was born and raised in Parkersburg during the height of a well-known drinking water contamination by C-8, part of the PFAS family of chemicals. She now suffers with a dysfunctional thyroid and has undergone the amputation of her right hip and leg secondary to osteosarcoma. Her experience as a victim of unregulated industry in West Virginia, coupled with her commitment to her profession as a nurse, has left her uniquely poised to advocate for her fellow West Virginian and their absolute right to a healthy environment.

What: E-Day at the Legislature

When: Tuesday, January 28, 9:00AM-2:00PM

Where: West Virginia Capitol Building, Upper Senate Rotunda

Email ktyner@wvrivers.org if you are interested in joining WV Rivers at E-Day.

Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020 Introduced, Contact Your Delegates

Some good news from the legislature! A new bill led by Delegate Hansen (D-Monongalia), called the West Virginia Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020, was introduced in the House as HB4542. WV Rivers endorses this bill which aims to identify and reduce exposure to class of chemical toxins known as polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These substances are “forever chemicals” and accumulate in the environment. A main source of exposure to PFAS is through contaminated drinking water. The Act takes four important steps:

  1. Establishes PFAS water quality criteria to set safe limits on the amount of PFAS chemicals allowed in our water supplies.
  2. Sets a statewide maximum contaminant level (“MCL”) on the amount of PFAS allowed in tap water.
  3. Requires polluters to report and monitor their use of PFAS.
  4. Creates an interagency WV PFAS Action Response Team.

Now is the time to let your delegates know that you support the Clean Drinking Water Act! Send them a message here.

WV Rivers Discusses HB4079 on The Legislature Today

This week, WV Rivers executive director, Angie Rosser, was a guest on the WV Public Broadcasting program The Legislature Today. She discussed the cumulative impacts oil & gas development is having on our environment and the dangers of HB4079, the bill that would exempt oil & gas storage tanks closest to drinking water intakes from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act (ASTA). Watch her interview here.

Right now, there are about 620 oil & gas storage tanks within zones of critical concern (ZCCs), or the areas directly upstream from public drinking water intakes that would be exempted by HB4079. Of those 620 storage tanks, 153 are deemed “Not Fit for Service”, meaning the tanks have not met basic standards and pose a very serious risk to drinking water supplies. HB4079 would deregulate these tanks, putting our drinking water at a greater risk for contamination.

So far, the legislature has heard loud and clear that West Virginians oppose this bill! Nearly 900 people have sent members of the House Energy Committee messages opposing HB4079! If you haven’t already contacted the Committee you can send them a message here.

Another important responsibility of the legislature is to provide oversight on state agency budgets. This week the Senate and House finance committees held budget hearings for the WV Department of Environmental Protection.

WVDEP related that its Office of Oil and Gas, which is largely funded by well permit fees, is currently operating in a $1.2 million annual deficit.

The Division of Mining and Reclamation is also facing impacts of severe revenue decline.

When asked about what plans the WVDEP Secretary has to deal with the impact of these shortfalls, he said nothing is in place at this time. We will be watching closely WVDEP’s budget issues and the solutions put forward to make sure important oversight and enforcement programs have the resources they need to protect our water, land and air.

2020 Legislative Session: Tracking Water Policy

The West Virginia legislative session kicked-off on Wednesday, January 8 and will run until March 7. WV Rivers will be there as the voice for safe, clean, wild rivers and streams.

Below you’ll find some of our Water Policy Priorities and their current status. View our bill tracker on the WV Rivers’ website for the latest on each bill as they are introduced.

HB4079 – Altering the definition of an aboveground storage tank. We oppose this bill that exempts certain tanks used by the oil and gas industry closest to public drinking water intakes from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. In House Energy Committee.

HB4542 – Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020: We support this Act, which addresses the risks posed by group of unregulated chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “PFAS”. PFAS are man-made, persist in the environment, and are known to cause cancer and other adverse health effects. Learn more and watch a press conference on the Clean Drinking Water Act here. In House Health and Human Resources Committee.

Recommendations of the Public Water System Supply Study Commission: We support the implementation of recommendations of the WV Public Water System Supply Study Commission, which was formed in response to the 2014 WV Water Crisis. Originating Bill dealing with recommended notice of permit violations to downstream water utility in Senate Energy, Industry and Mining subcommittee.

Updated Penalties for Water Quality Violations: We’re seeing multi-billion dollar pipeline projects repeatedly violate their permits, resulting in harm to waterbodies across the state with relatively minimal monetary consequences. We support legislation that takes steps to deter polluters from breaking the law by updating penalty calculations. Awaiting Introduction.

Protecting the State’s Waters from Coal Company Bankruptcies: As more coal companies declare bankruptcy, our rivers and streams impacted by mining are at great risk for being left without the clean-up they deserve. We support legislation that holds coal companies accountable for their environmental degradation and ensures they pay for related clean-ups. Tracking DEP Surface Mining Rule revisions to bonding requirements moving through House.

We also support legislation to establish the Office of Just Transition (introduction pending), which would help communities most impacted by the declining coal industry; and the Environmental Rights Amendment (HJR25 in House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee), which would secure West Virginian’s rights to clean water, pure air, and a healthy environment.

Upcoming Legislative Events

Environmental Lobby Day at the Capitol – January 28

Join WV Rivers and allied organizations for Environment Day at the Legislature on Tuesday, January 28. E-Day features speakers and citizen lobbying for sound environmental policy. Does lobbying sound intimidating? Don’t worry! We’ll provide you with the information you need to make an impression on your legislators. Afterwards, head over to the Empty Glass for E-Council’s Green Jam benefit. Learn more.

Email ktyner@wvrivers.org if you are interested in joining WV Rivers at E-Day.

Grassroots WV Local Campaigns & Lobby Day – February 3

Are you thinking about organizing a local campaign on an issue? Join WV Rivers and allies for a workshop on how to run a grassroots advocacy campaign on February 3 in Charleston. After learning campaign management best practices, head over to the Capitol to lobby your legislators on the issues that matter to you. Learn more and register here.

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