Water Policy News: Third Week of the 2021 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.

Easy Action: Join the House Judiciary’s virtual public hearing on the Water Quality Standards Rule on Monday, 3/1 at 9:00AM. If you plan to speak during the hearing you MUST REGISTER TO SPEAK BETWEEN 3-4pm TODAY BY CALLING 304-340-3252.

URGENT! Water Quality Standards Rule Public Hearing – Monday, 3/1

On Monday March 1 at 9:00AM, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a virtual public hearing on HB 2389, the Water Quality Standards Rule. Even if you do not plan to speak we strongly encourage you to join the meeting to show solidarity in opposition to the bill. Learn how to join the public hearing.

If you plan to speak during Monday’s public hearing you must call the House Judiciary Committee, 304-340-3252, to register between 3:00-4:00PM TODAY. The Hearing will be held virtually via Zoom, you can watch the hearing following these instructions.

Can’t speak during the public hearing? Send a message to committee members.

HB 2389 makes changes 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. 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. Watch a video explaining how HB 2389 weakens our water quality standards.

Oil & Gas Storage Tank Deregulation Bill Move Through House

Time to Contact Members of the House Health and Human Resources Committee

A “zombie” bill, that with your help we defeated in 2017 and 2020, that deregulates oil and gas storage tanks closest to drinking water intakes has begun to make its way through the House of Delegates. Read coverage from WV Public BroadcastingCharleston Gazette-Mail, and Metro News.

HB 2598’s first stop was the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee on Tuesday, 2/23, where it dominated the meeting. Get the facts on HB 2598 here.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, called two expert witnesses to testify on the bill, Dr. Dorothy Vesper, a geology professor from WVU, and Mark Kozar, a hydrologist for the United States Geological Survey. Dr. Vesper described the pollutants the tanks in question could contain – substances like crude oil, barium and radioactive radium. In addition to Dr. Vesper’s and Mr. Kozar’s testimony, Ruth Porter, the WVDEP employee tasked with oversite of the (ASTA), provided information on the number of tanks – about 887 – that would be impacted by HB 2598.

Towards the end of the committee meeting, which ultimately resulted in the committee advancing the bill on a voice vote, Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell, motioned for HB 2598 to be referred to the House Health and Human Resources Committee, his motion failed on a voice vote.

Prior to the vote, Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, recalled the 2014 Water Crisis when the drinking water for over 300,000 West Virginians was contaminated by a leaky storage tank spurring the unanimous passage of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. She shared “I just don’t think there’s anything more important than having clean drinking water… I don’t think we should be doing anything to potentially make our drinking water less safe.”

On Wednesday, 2/24, we learned that the House had decided to refer HB 2598 to the House Health and Human Resources Committee where it awaits debate. Now is the time to let committee members know HB 2598 puts our drinking water at an unnecessary risk!

Lack of Public Engagement by House Spurs a People’s Public Hearing

In the midst of the legislative maneuvering described in the story above, we were awaiting a decision on a formal request to provide citizens a public hearing to submit their comments on HB 2598 to the official record. After waiting over a week for a response, House leadership decided to reject the public hearing request.

It is essential that the public’s voice is heard on HB 2598, 800 people have already sent a letter to delegates on the bill through WV Rivers’ action alert. That’s why a coalition of community advocates organized a People’s Public Hearing on the bill. The virtual non-partisan People’s Pubic Hearing was recorded and will be submitted to the legislature during a House floor session. Watch a recording here.

The People’s Public Hearing on 2/26, was attended by over 80 citizens, with 24 providing comments. Speakers were given the opportunity to speak for 90 seconds. Many of the speakers described their personal experience during the 2014 Water Crisis and asked legislators to do all they could to prevent such a disaster again. Delegates Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, and Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha joined the People’s Public Hearing and encouraged participents to contact members of the House Health and Human Resources committee to share their opposition to the bill. Send a message here!

Tracking Water Policy: Bills We’re Watching

To keep up-to-date on all of our policy priorities, fact sheets and easy actions head over to our water policy webpage, and make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.

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

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

  • HB 2725: Relating to funding for the DEP Office of Oil and Gas
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