WV Rivers News: Halfway through the Legislative Session – How’s Our Water?

URGENT: Contact Members of Senate Judiciary Committee on Water Quality Standards

Yesterday, 3/16, the Senate Judiciary Committee was to vote on HB 2382, a WVDEP rules bundle which includes changes to West Virginia’s water quality standards. During the meeting, the Committee Chairman pulled the bill off the agenda due to inadequate time to provide the bill the consideration it deserves. Contact members of the Committee today! 

The water quality standards portion of the rules bundle is 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. The proposal before the Committee would allow for an increased amount of 13 toxic chemicals to be present in our water supplies, weakening our water quality standards. This is unacceptable for a state with the 3rd highest cancer death rate.

The House of Delegates has already passed the rules bundle, and if you are a West Virginian, we urgently need you to contact members of the Senate Judiciary on the dangers of weakening water quality standards.

Water Policy Snapshot: Halfway Through the Session

Beyond the water quality standards rule, we have a full roster of bills we’re tracking and there is less than a week left for the Legislature to introduce new bills. Below, we’ve put together a handy tracker on all of the bills we’re watching – including the four policies we’ve prioritized this session. If you are looking for more in depth information on these issues, head over to our water policy webpage for factsheets and previous editions of our weekly water policy news.

Priority: Water Quality Standards

Priority: Defending the Aboveground Storage Tank Act

  • HB 2598Exempts certain oil and gas storage tanks from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act (ASTA). This bill would exempt around 880 storage tanks close to drinking water intakes from regular inspections under the ASTA, putting our drinking water at risk. Learn morePassed the House of Delegates; in Senate Judiciary Committee. Contact members of the Committee. 

Priority: Fully Funding the WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas

  • HB 2725: Relating to funding for the DEP Office of Oil and Gas by establishing an annual fee per well that would fully fund the Office. In House Energy and Manufacturing Committee.
  • SB 404: Modifying well work permits issued by DEP Office of Oil and Gas. This bill would help to partially fund the Office of Oil & Gas. Passed Senate; on 3rd reading in House of Delegates, expected to pass. 

Priority: Economic Development and Renewable Energy

  • HB 2588: Creating the WV Energy Efficiency Jobs Creation Act. In House Energy and Manufacturing Committee.
  • HB 3198: Establishing a program to facilitate the recovery of areas of the state that have been impacted by the reduction of coal production and consumption, known as the “Coal Community Comeback” bill. In Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee.
  • SB 30: Permitting third-party ownership of renewable and alternative energy generating facilities. Learn more from our friends at Solar United NeighborsIn Senate Economic Development Committee.

Other bills we’re keeping an eye on that have water quality implications.

Bills WV Rivers Supports

  • HB 2722: Prohibiting the use of class B fire-fighting foam for testing purposes if the foam contains a certain class of fluorinated organic chemicals. We support this bill that would prohibit the use of firefighting foam for testing purposes which contains dangerous PFAS chemicals. Passed the House of Delegates unanimously; in Senate Government Organization Committee. 
  • HB 2980: Amend Groundwater Protection Act to cover Karst Terrain. This bill provides additional protections for groundwater. In House Health and Human Resources Committee. 

Bills WV Rivers Opposes

  • HB 2810: Relating to the removal of the severance tax on oil and gas produced from low producing oil and natural gas wells. In the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee.
  • SB 616: Abolishing environmental advocate within DEP. In Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee.

Comment Biological Assessment Rule… Again

Through 3/26 you can submit comments to the WVDEP on the rule used to determine whether a stream meets water quality standards based on analysis of aquatic life. If this feels familiar, that’s because this is the third time WVDEP has collected comments on the rule since April 2019.

Each time our analysis is virtually the same: The proposed rule assesses aquatic life communities on a scale of 0-100 and establishes an impairment threshold of 50, and an attainment threshold of 72. Streams within those thresholds must undergo more analysis, during which they are neither listed as impaired nor considered healthy even though they are not meeting water quality standards. This leaves streams facing impairment without an opportunity for timely restoration.

On 3/9, the WVDEP held a virtual public hearing on the rule and staff scientist Autumn Crowe provide comments, read them here. Now, you can submit your comments too!

Telling Conservation Stories: Protecting Water through Land Conservation

The Safe Water Conservation Collaborative is an emerging partnership in the eastern panhandle that brings together water utilities, land conservation organizations, and community groups with the mission of “protecting drinking water through land conservation”. WV Rivers is proud to serve as the host partner and coordinator of the Collaborative.

Last year, the Collaborative highlighted six landowners in the eastern panhandle who have protected their land through a conservation easement. These landowners told their unique stories through short videos answering the question “why is land conservation important to you”.

You can lean more about this innovative project and watch the videos here.

Save the Date: Virtual Spring Shindig, April 27

Grab your calendar and circle Tuesday, April 27! We’re hosting a Virtual Spring Shindig to celebrate the season and cheers to clean water.

Spring Shindig tickets will go on sale soon. All tickets include a limited edition WV Rivers’ candy darter pint glass to raise in a toast to clean, fresh West Virginia water!

Hope you can join us.

Make a Gift to Support Our Legislative Priorities

Beyond the normal hurdles faced during the legislative session, the current session poses additional big challenges – like limited opportunities to meet with legislators, and questions about transparency. To rise to the occasion, we’re counting on your donations to help us communicate with decision-makers more effectively. Your tax-deductible gift supports our scientific research and reporting, as well as the tools we use to share that information. Your support can truly make a difference! Consider a gift today to support our clean water advocacy.

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