Water Policy News: Second Week of the 2021 Session
Action Alert: House Judiciary to Consider Water Quality Standards
Click above to watch a video explaining what weakening water quality standards means for our source water.
Legislators will soon be voting on a proposal submitted by WVDEP related to a critical portion of West Virginia’s water quality standards called human health criteria. Human health criteria determines how much of a toxin can be in our water before it harms our health. Let Legislators know that you oppose any weakening of water quality standards!
Sadly, the proposal before the legislature allows for more chemical toxins in our water. Public health experts agree that any additional exposure to the toxic chemicals regulated by human health criteria would pose increased risks to our health. View our fact sheet on the Rule.
The water quality standards rule’s first stop as it works its way through the legislature is the House Judiciary Committee. Contact members of the committee today and ask them to make public health their #1 priority and reject any change that would weaken our water quality standards.
Also, stay tuned for more information on the status of a pending public hearing request submitted by our friends at the WV Environmental Council. As of this hour, we are still awaiting a decision from the House Judiciary Chair on the pending request. We’ll keep you posted!
Bill to Exempt Oil and Gas Tanks from Aboveground Storage Tank Act on House Energy Agenda
It’s baaaaaack…. lobbyist are at it again trying to exempt oil and gas tanks from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. This year’s bill, HB 2598, is similar to last year’s rollback attempt – which you defeated! It would exempt certain oil and gas tanks that are closest to our public drinking water intakes. If this bill passes, over 1,000 tanks in 27 counties would become unregulated. View our fact sheets to learn more.
We anticipate the House Energy Committee to take up the bill on Tuesday, 2/23.
Act NOW: Tell members of the House Energy Committee to protect our drinking water and reject HB 2598.
Many of you helped us succeed in convincing the legislature in 2017 and 2020 to keep these oil and gas tanks in zones of critical concern (“ZCCs”) regulated by the AST Act. But industry keeps pushing. We must hold the line and say that all tanks within ZCCs should have the standards and oversight mechanisms of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. Say no to HB 2598.
We know from the Freedom Industries tank leak that caused the WV Water Crisis what can go terribly wrong when tanks in ZCCs are overlooked. ZCCs are areas directly upstream from public drinking water intakes in which a released contaminant will reach the intake within five hours. Exempting tanks in ZCCs from regulation puts us in more danger because there is the added concern of not having enough time to respond if tank fails.
Contact members of the House Energy Committee, say no breaks for tanks in ZCCs – reject HB 2598!
WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas Faces Financial Crisis
WVDEP Cabinet Secretary, Harold Ward
One of our four policy priorities this session is advocating for full funding for the WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas. The agency office is facing a dire budget shortfall and has already taken drastic measures to cut costs. Over the past year, the office cut its staff from 40 to just 25 positions – with 11 of those remaining employees serving as inspectors.
Those 11 inspectors are tasked with the oversight of over 60,000 active and 15,000 abandoned gas well through out the state. It’s an untenable situation and it leaves an opening for wells to be inadequately maintained and inspected, putting our water at risk.
Earlier this month advocates and lawmakers held a press conference on the Office of Oil and Gas budget crisis and presented a solution legislators could implement to shore up the financial short fall – a simple $100 per well per year fee to be paid by well operators.
On 2/15, the new WVDEP Cabinet Secretary, Harold Ward spoke about the financial crisis during a session of the Senate Finance Committee. While he expressed concerns over the agency’s budget, he failed to push for immediate action. Read an article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail to see our comments and learn more.
Tracking Water Policy: Bills We’re Watching
Water Quality Standards
- HB 2389: Authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate a legislative rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards
- SB 137: DEP rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards
Economic Development and Renewable Energy
- HB 2588: Creating the WV Energy Efficiency Jobs Creation Act
- SB 30: Permitting third-party ownership of renewable and alternative energy generating facilities. Learn more from our friends at Solar United Neighbors.
Defending the Aboveground Storage Tank Act
- HB 2598: Exempts certain oil and gas storage tanks from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act
Fully Funding the WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas
- No legislation has been introduced yet.