Water Policy News: Seventh Week of the 2021 Session
Senate Passes Water Quality Standard Rule Allowing More Toxins in Water
Angie Rosser is sworn in to testify on HB 2382, the WVDEP rules bundle that includes updates to water quality standards.
Last week, the HB 2382, the WVDEP rules bundle that includes updates to West Virginia’s water quality standards reached the end of path through the Legislature. On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee debated the rule and heard testimony from expert witnesses, including WV Rivers’ executive director, Angie Rosser. You can listen to Angie’s testimony here, beginning at 4:09 mark.
Under questioning, Angie stressed that the state is already meeting the water quality standards for the toxins that would see their pollution limits weakened if the rule was adopted. She explained that it is a matter of good policy to prioritize the health and safety of West Virginians to reject any changes to water quality standards that exposes us to more toxins.
Following the testimony, Senator Richard Lindsay introduced an amendment that would limit the updates to water quality standards to only the criteria that are more stringent. The amendment failed on a voice vote and the Committee advanced the rule.
On Friday, 3/26 Senate voted along party lines to adopted the rule, without amendments. Thank Senators who voted against allowing more toxins in West Virginia’s water.
So, what’s next? The rule now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature, and the water quality standards revisions will have to be approved by EPA in order to go into effect.
And the work continues. WV Rivers is representing you on WVDEP’s Human Health Criteria Workgroup which meets monthly to consider remaining recommended updates. We will continue to advocate for adoption of all updates that EPA recommends West Virginia needs to strengthen standards to adequately protect human health. WVDEP will enter the next rulemaking process in June 2021.
Thanks Senators for Voting for Clean Water
It’s essential to say “thank you” to the Senators who voted in favor of clean water. Expressing your gratitude to decision-makers who listen to the voice of the people is an important aspect of being a citizen advocate. Let the Senators who prioritized public health and clean water know you appreciate their vote on water quality standards.
Aboveground Storage Tank Act Exemption Bill Still a Threat to Drinking Water
With two weeks left in the legislative session, HB 2598, which would exempt certain oil and gas tanks closest to public drinking water intakes from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, is still lurking. It passed the House and is sitting with the Senate Judiciary Committee. We know that committee will start considering House bills at an accelerated pace this week.
We are working to share information and concerns with members of the Senate, and need your back up. Please contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to say “no” to removing tanks from regulation closest to drinking water intake. Contact members of the Committee.
Tracking Water Policy: Bills We’re Watching
This week brings “cross-over day”, where bills that don’t make it out of their house of origin by Wednesday will not have a chance of passing and are considered “dead”. We’ve condensed our bill tracking list to those bills that are still active within 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
- HB 2382: WVDEP rules bundle, including revisions to water quality standards that allows for more chemical toxins in our water. Learn more. Headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. Thank Senators that voted against weakening standards.
Priority: Defending the Aboveground Storage Tank Act
- HB 2598: Exempts 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 more. Passed the House of Delegates; in Senate Judiciary Committee. Contact members of the Committee.
Priority: Fully Funding the WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas
- 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. Read more about the bill. Completed legislation, awaiting the Governor’s signature.
- SB 712: Relating to oversight fees for certain gas-producing wells. This bill would help partially fund the Office of Oil & Gas by establishing an annual fee for certain wells. In Senate Finance Committee.
Priority: Economic Diversification and Renewable Energy
- HB 3310– Relating generally to the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. This bill involves allowing permitting third-party ownership of solar energy generating facilities through power purchase agreements. This bill originated in the House Judiciary Committee on 3/26 and is on the House floor for passage by 3/31.
Other active 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 2667: To create a cost saving program for state buildings regarding energy efficiency. This bill helps promote energy efficiency in state buildings. On House Floor for passage.
Bills of Concern
- SB 716: Encouraging public access and use of state roads and trails. This bill opens the door to use of off-highway vehicles on state public lands. Expected on Senate Finance Committee agenda 3/29.
- HB 2630: Requiring DEP to reimburse fines paid by towns, villages and communities in certain instances. This bill may conflict with federal Clean Water Act requirements. Passed House, in Senate Judiciary Committee.
Water Policy in the News
Water policy has been a hot issue this session with coverage on the debate appearing in media outlets across the state. We’ve prepared a round-up of stories shining a light on water policy.
- As Legislature convenes, public won’t be where the public discourse is – 2/7/2021, MetroNews
- Dozens speak out against changes to tank bill at public hearing organized separate from Legislature – 2/26/2021, MetroNews
- House Judiciary public hearing on water quality rule draws 24 against DEP proposal, 8 in favor – 3/1/2021, Dominion Post
- West Virginia lawmakers are limiting access because of COVID. Some critics say the rules have reduced citizen input. – 2/23/2021, Mountain State Spotlight Public Broadcasting
- David Lillard: Industry can’t be bothered by responsibility (Opinion) – 2/23/2021, Charleston Gazette Mail
- Mike Pushkin: Rolling back regulations on tanks invites disaster (Opinion) – 3/9/2021, Charleston Gazette Mail
- Evan Hansen: Time to support the Coal Community Comeback bill – 3/13/2021, Charleston Gazette Mail
WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas Funding
- DEP to cut more than third of its staff – 2/5/2021, Dominion Post
- Lawmakers, Advocates Call To Fully Fund State Oil And Gas Regulator – 2/4/2021, WV Public Broadcasting
- House approves Senate bill to raise money to provide more well inspectors for Office of Oil and Gas – 3/13/2021, Dominion Post
Water Quality Standards
- WV Senate passes DEP-backed bill weakening some water quality standards – 3/26/21, Charleston Gazette-Mail
- Senate Judiciary Committee moves water quality standard update closer to passage – 3/22/2021, Charleston Gazette-Mail
- W.Va. House Judiciary Committee Holds First Public Hearing Of 2021 On Water Quality Bill – 3/1/2021, WV Public Broadcasting
- WV House passes easing of water quality standards – 3/12/2021, Charleston Gazette Mail
Oil & Gas Storage Tank Deregulation Bill
- House passage of tank regulation rollback latest in long history of Chemical Safety Board lessons ignored in WV – 3/28/21, Charleston Gazette-Mail
- Energy and Manufacturing Committee advances rollback of oil and gas waste tank oversight to full House – 2/23/2021, Charleston Gazette Mail
- House Energy OKs bill to remove 800-plus above-ground storage tanks from 2014 regulatory program – 2/23/2021, Dominion Post
- House passes bill exempting tanks near water intakes – 3/10/2021, MetroNews
- Water utilities, state environmental regulators wary of bill that would relax oil and gas tank oversight – 3/15/2021, Charleston Gazette Mail