Water Policy News: Week 4 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 4: Contact your legislators and let them know you support the Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020, HB 4542/SB 679.

Clean Drinking Water Act Gaining Statewide Attention

Legislators, business owners, legal experts and safe water supporters joined together for a press conference on the Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020.

This week’s highlight at the Capitol was a jam-packed press conference on the Clean Water Drinking Act of 2020, an important bill for water drinkers that aims to identify and reduce exposure to the unregulated class of PFAS toxic chemicals. Watch the press conference here.

Thursday, 2/6, clean water supporters and members of the media filled the room to hear from legislators, legal experts, business owners, and impacted citizens on the importance of the legislation.

WV Rivers’ board member, Nancy Ward, spoke from the perspective of a business owner personally affected by water contamination from unregulated chemicals. Attorney Harry Deitzler reinforced the need for immediate action on the legislation based on his experience representing West Virginians harmed by PFAS contamination of drinking water around the Parkersburg area. Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia) and Senator Bill Ihlenfeld (D-Ohio) addressed the crowd as lead sponsors of the Clean Drinking Water Act, flanked by several other legislators supporting the effort.

Check out all of the media coverage hereherehere, and here.

This week was a clear success in building momentum for safer drinking water, please take a moment to let your legislators know you support the Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020!

Pro-Solar Bill Passes Out of Senate Committee

Something rather remarkable seems to be happening at the WV Legislature – for the first time in our history, we are seeing a pro-solar bill on its way to passage. Relying on more solar-based energy production helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing climate impacts affecting our river ecosystems.

On Thursday, SB 583 passed unanimously out of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining committee which would pave the way for utility-scale solar development in West Virginia.

It now advances for a full vote by the Senate next week. Read more here.

Pollution Notification to Water Utilities Considered by Subcommittee

On Friday, 2/7, WV Rivers represented your interests in a stakeholder meeting hosted by a subcommittee of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee. The draft legislation under consideration would require public water systems to receive notice of violations from polluters upstream of their intakes.

We support the notice requirement so that water utilities have more information provided about threats to the drinking water supply. This proposal is a result of a recommendation of the Public Water System Supply Study Commission that WV Rivers’ had a seat on and provided technical expertise.

There were objections to the proposed recommended requirement voiced by the coal and natural gas industries. We will keep working with water utilities and legislators to make sure our drinking water providers have the information they need to manage contamination threats.

Just Transition Office Legislation Discussed at Charleston Forum

In addition to promoting restoration of our streams negatively impacted by coal mining, we also are supporting HB 4574 that addresses the need for a recovery plan for WV communities most impacted by the decline of the coal economy. This week, the WV Center for Climate Change co-sponsored a public program, “Leaving No One Behind: Ensuring a Fair Transition for Workers and Communities”. Read more here.

HB 4574 is in the House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee (Del. Queen, Chair) awaiting action.

Grassroots Policy Summit Brings Citizen Voices to the Capitol

WV Rivers was proud to partner with WV Citizen Action Group to help lead a contingent of citizens through a morning workshop and afternoon of citizen lobbying on clean water and environmental justice issues.

The Grassroots Summit helped connect activists and various local campaigns working for a better future for West Virginia. We made the rounds with Summit participants to lobby for the Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020 – continuing to successfully raise the voice and interests of the public in clean water for all!

Legislative Event: Public Hearing on Anti-Protest Bill – Monday 2/10

Join citizens and organizations this Monday, 2/10, to voice your opinion on the right to peaceful assembly in West Virginia. HB 4615 “West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” is a bill aimed at raising criminal and civil penalties for trespassing, actual damage and tampering, and conspiracy to peacefully protest near “critical infrastructure” learn more here.

Date: Monday, February 10
Where: House Chamber
Time: 8:30 AM

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 / SB679 – 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. HB4542 in House Health and Human Resources Committee; SB679 in Senate Judiciary.

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 Just Transition Office (HB4574 in House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee) 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

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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