Water Policy News: 2020 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

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.

Final Action: If WV Rivers’ weekly policy update and easy action were important to you, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to WV Rivers. We depend on individual donations to provide these services. Thank you!

You Did It! Legislature Passes Resolution to Study Toxic PFAS

It was down to the wire but you did it! At 11:30 PM on Saturday night, the WV Legislature listened to your messages and passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 46, which initiates a statewide study to identify toxic PFAS chemicals in our drinking water!

As time was running out, the Speaker of the House acknowledged that several delegates were asking about the study resolution (thanks to you!) and he paused other actions to bring it up for a vote.

This was a hard won victory and you deserve the credit!

Throughout the course of the legislative session citizen advocates sent 19,000 messages to members of the Legislature demanding they take steps to keep West Virginians safe from dangerous PFAS toxins.

PFAS, which are man-made chemicals, are sometimes called toxic “forever chemicals” because they do not break down and they accumulate in the environment. The primary exposure pathway is through drinking water. They are a very real and very serious threat to our health. Right now, the City of Martinsburg’s Big Springs Water Plant water well is closed due to PFAS contamination and an exposure assessment by federal agencies is underway.

So what’s next for the PFAS study? The plan outlined in SCR 46 requires the WVDEP and the DHHR to work together to sample raw or untreated water near public drinking water intakes across the state for the presence of PFAS. Starting in 2021, the agencies must report the study findings to the legislature on a semi-annual basis. The data collected during the study will help public health and environmental protection agencies determine the next steps to protect us from PFAS exposure.

Throughout the study, WV Rivers will be tracking the data collection and making sure the public is updated on findings. But first, we need to work to ensure the study is fully funded. We have meetings planned in the coming days to determine funding strategies and how you can help push those forward – so, stay tuned!

Thank You E-Council Lobby Team for All You Do

Join WV Rivers in sending a big thank you to Karan Ireland and Kayla Young, this year’s lobby team for the WV Environmental Council.

We support WVEC in staffing full-time lobbyists to help track and respond to all sorts of environmental issues that pop up through the session. We appreciate their relentless efforts!

Tracking Water Policy: How Did Our Water Fare?

The 2020 legislative session came to a close at midnight on Saturday, 3/7, and the pressure to pass pro-water bills never let up.

Because of your engagement and advocacy we have some real victories to celebrate!

  1. Over the next few years the state will conduct a historic statewide study on the presence of toxic PFAS in our drinking water supplies.
  2. We defeated the bill that would have rolled-back regulation of oil & gas aboveground storage tanks closest to drinking water intakes.
  3. The legislature took a step towards a clean energy future with the passage of SB 583, the Solar Bill.
  4. Two bills advanced that make sure public water utilities are keeping customers informed about the quality of their water.
  5.  And most importantly, your voice made the difference on these policy issues. Over the course of the session WV Rivers’ action alert tool generated 44,000 letters to legislators! We heard from decision-makers that they were receiving more messages on clean water than any other issue throughout the past two years. The results above show that lawmakers know they cannot ignore your calls to action. And we know without your messages none of this would have succeeded.

If you find WV Rivers’ Water Policy News and Easy Action of the Week helpful, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to WV Rivers Coalition. Our policy work is paid for by people like you! We count on individual donations to provide up-to-date water policy information and actions you can take to make a difference. Please, if you have used our action alert system to contact a decision-maker donate today to keep progress for clean water moving forward. Thank you!

Throughout the course of the session we tracked 14 bills, all but two (HB 4079 and HB 4615) were good for our water and good for our people. Below we’ve included a summary of each bill we tracked and where it ended up at the end of the session.


SCR 46 – Studying PFAS Presence in Drinking Water Sources. This resolution requires the WVDEP and DHHR to sample raw water supplies at 259 locations across the state to detect the presence of PFAS.

 SB 583 – Creating a Program to Further Develop Renewable Energy Resources. This bill allows West Virginia utility companies to create solar energy projects. Read more here.

HB 4217 – Authorizing the DEP to promulgate legislative rules. This is the WVDEP rules bundle. It includes provisions for hazardous waste, remediation, air quality, and compensation for landowners impacted by mining-caused subsidence. Once the governor signs the bill it will head to the to EPA and Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation for approval.

SB 739 – Relating to failing public water utilities. This bill takes steps to make sure tap water is safe by identifying failing public water utilities and developing plans to either improve the utility or replace it with another provider.

HB 4615 – Anti-Protest Bill. The “West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” raises criminal and civil penalties for trespassing, actual damage and tampering, and conspiracy to peacefully protest near “critical infrastructure” like natural gas pipelines. While the final bill that passed is less extreme than the introduced version, this is still a serious encroachment on acts of civil disobedience. Learn more here.


HB 3049 – Improving Dissemination of Boiled Water Advisories. When drinking water is unsafe the public needs to know quickly. This bill requires water utilities to make customers aware of boiled water advisories through a text and voice alert system. Unfortunately, even though it passed both houses unanimously, the bill appeared to fall through the cracks and failed to get completed in the final days of the session.

HB 4574 – Creation of Just Transition Office. The legislation would have created the Just Transition Office to help communities affected by the decline of coal rebuild their economies and diversify their economic base. It passed the House unanimously, but the Senate failed to act on it.

SB 840 – Creating statutory fee for modifying permits issued by DEP Office of Oil and Gas. This bill would have enacted a fee for modifications to oil and gas permits. This bill was critical to solving the very serious budgetary deficits affecting the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas. It passed the Senate, but died in the House Judiciary Committee Read more here.

HB 4079 – Altering the definition of an aboveground storage tank. This bill would have exempted certain tanks used by the oil and gas industry closest to public drinking water intakes from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act.

HB 4542 / SB 679 – Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020. This bill would have comprehensively addressed the risks posed PFAS.

HB 4787 – Updated Penalties for Water Quality Violations. This bill would have taken steps to deter polluters from breaking the law by allowing the WVDEP to increase penalties for repeated water quality violations on larger linear projects (like pipelines).

HJR25 – Environmental Rights Amendment. This resolution would have secured West Virginian’s rights to clean water, pure air, and a healthy environment.

HB 4816 – Protecting the State’s Waters from Coal Company Bankruptcies. This bill would have eliminated self-bonding by coal companies.

Recommendations of the Public Water System Supply Study Commission. We supported the implementation of recommendations of the WV Public Water System Supply Study Commission, which was formed in response to the 2014 WV Water Crisis. Sadly, again, the final recommendations of the Commission were not adopted during the legislative session.

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