Water Policy News: First Week of the 2022 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.

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2022 Water Policy Priorities: Water Quality Standards; Oil & Gas Oversight; Revitalization of Coal Communities

It’s that time of year again when the West Virginia Legislature convenes in Charleston to debate policy and pass laws. The 2022 session began on Wednesday, January 12 and will run through March 12.

This year we’ve identified policy priorities we know will be up for consideration this session.

Advancing these clean water policies is a team effort and we’re counting on you to get involved! 

We’ve heard from Legislators that the messages they receive through our action alerts make a difference!

If you haven’t already, sign-up to receive the most urgent water policy action alerts by text message.

2022 Water Policy Priorities

Water Quality Standards Rule

We support strengthening human health protections in water pollution limits based on the best available science. We oppose the proposed industry loophole that would allow for weakened standards on a case-by-case basis. Read an article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on the WQS Rule in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Preserve Protections in the Aboveground Storage Tank Act

We support preserving protections for public drinking water supplies. Last year we were successful in defeating proposed rollbacks to protections in the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. A new bill, HB 4083, has been introduced this session and it goes even further in its attempted regulatory exemptions. Read our fact sheet on HB 4083.

Oil & Gas Oversight

We must have adequate regulatory oversight and accountability. Right now the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas has only 9 inspectors to provide regulatory oversight for around 70,000 wells and 27,000 tanks. We support a bill, HB 2725, that will establish an annual registration fee for oil and gas wells. Read a Charleston Gazette-Mail article on the staffing shortfall.

Coal Community Transition Support

We support the Coal Communities Workgroup’s efforts to shape community-informed legislative action for transition support. Learn more about the Workgroup.

We support policies that accelerate clean energy development and jobs where they are needed most.

You can learn more about each policy outlined above on our website where you’ll also find a handy bill tracker and additional resources related to water policy.

Senate Judiciary Adopts WV Rivers Backed Amendment

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed the water quality standards rule. During the discussion, the rule was amended to limit changes to standards to only those limits that are site-specific. What does this mean?

As the rule was originally proposed, it would have allowed polluting industries to petition WVDEP for increased site-specific pollution limits. Approval of these changes could have opened the door for these increased pollution limits to be adopted statewide without full public input and legislative review, effectively bypassing processes designed to engage the public in policy change – like water quality standards revisions.

While the Senate Judiciary did not adopt all of our recommendations, we are glad to see the Committee take an important step towards limiting the reach of the rule. We also appreciated Senator Lindsay’s efforts in committee to keep the public’s voice in the process by restoring legislative review of any proposed weakening of human health protections. His amendment did not pass, but we will be looking for support for this amendment in the House. You can send a thanks to Senator Lindsay for standing up for clean water and your voice to richard.lindsay@wvsenate.gov.

Public Hearing on Advanced Nuclear – Friday, January 28

A pair of bills (HB 2882 and SB 4) have been introduced to the WV Legislature to repeal the ban on nuclear power plants in West Virginia. Wondering what this could mean for West Virginia? You are not alone! In mid-January, WV Rivers and partners held an informational panel discussion on the pros and cons of nuclear power in WV. During the webinar, expert panelists explained the benefits and risks of repurposing retiring coal-fired power plant sites for advanced nuclear energy development. You can watch the webinar here.

On Friday, January 28 at 10:00 AM the West Virginia House will be holding a public hearing on HB 2882. Learn more from the WV Environmental Council 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 Rule

  • SB 284 – the Water Quality Standards Rule. Yesterday, 1/25/22, the bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee (this bill will be bundled with other DEP rules and get reassigned a bill number). One of our recommended amendments to clarify the bill’s provision for changes to human health criteria apply only in site-specific circumstances, not statewide, was adopted. Another amendment presented by Senator Lindsay to restore legislative review of any weakening of human health protections failed on a voice vote. The bill now goes to the Senate Floor.
  • HB 4123. In House Energy and Manufacturing.

Coal Community Transition Support

Preserve Protections in the Aboveground Storage Tank Act

WVDEP Oil & Gas Oversight

Additional Important Bills We’re Tracking

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