WV Rivers News: Policy; Pipelines; Meet Jenna; Virtual Policy Event

Policy Update: What’s Happening at the WV Legislature

Two important action alerts below

Action Alert: Funding for the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas

The DEP Office of Oil and Gas (OOG) has been forced to severely reduce its staff due to budget shortfalls. Currently, OOG only has 9 inspectors overseeing approximately 75,000 wells and 28,000 tanks across the state. That’s 1 inspector for every 8,000 wells.

The West Virginia Legislature can fix this problem. Legislators can advance bills that ensure the WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas receives the resources required fulfill its mission to regulate and inspect oil & gas activities.

Yesterday, 2/15, the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee passed SB 480 to help address this problem. That bill, which would impose an annual fee for well permits, now must pass the full Senate.

If you are a West Virginian, contact your Senator, encourage them to fix the budget crisis! 

We also support HB 2725 and SB 613 that would drive funding to the Office of Oil and Gas for more inspectors. Read our fact sheet on the bills.

Action Alert: Bill to Weaken Drinking Water Protections Under the Aboveground Storage Tank Act Advances

A bill rolling back protections in the 2014 Aboveground Storage Tank Act, HB 2598, has passed the House of Delegates and is headed to the Senate. Read an article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Thanks to your advocacy, the committee substitute that passed the House is an improvement over the original bill which aimed to completely exempt oil & gas from all requirements of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act.

However, the amended bill weakens inspection requirements for tanks located in “zones of critical concern”, which are the areas closest to and directly upstream of public drinking water intakes. Please tell your Senator to not weaken protections for drinking water in the Aboveground Storage Tank Act and reject HB 2598.

Water Quality Standards Head to Governor for Signature

The WVDEP rules bundle, SB 279, which includes revisions to water quality standards has quickly moved through the Legislature. The rules passed the Senate on 01/31 and the House of Delegates on 2/11. View the vote rollcalls for the Senate and the House and consider thanking the Senators and Delegates that voted no in opposition to parts of the rule that weakened standards. Read coverage in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

So what does the rule mean for water quality? It makes a couple changes that WV Rivers opposes:

1.   It allows for weakening human health criteria on a case-by-case basis, without legislative review.

2.   It makes 5 human health criteria less stringent, allowing more of the following toxins in our water: DDT, benzo[k]fluoranthene, chrysene, methyl bromide, and gamma-Hexachlorocyclohexan.

However, there is important good news. Our research, analysis, and persistent advocacy over the last 5 years has been successful in making progress on adopting long overdue updates to WV’s human health criteria. This rule adopted 30 updates that we recommended be adopted to adequately protect the health of West Virginians. Though our work still isn’t done; there are still 35 more EPA-recommended updates that have not been addressed by WVDEP. We’ll be working on seeing these through, and will continue to need your voice in promoting safe water for all. Thanks for your involvement and support in making progress happen!

WV Rivers Virtual Legislative Update – February 24, at 7:00pm

Join WV Rivers next Thursday, February 24, for an in depth discussion on our water policy priorities during a free Mid-Session Legislative Update.

The virtual discussion will get started at 7:00PM and a Q&A will follow. Registration required.

Federal Court Agrees with WV Rivers Over Candy Darter and Mountain Valley Pipeline Impacts

In late January, the 4th Circuit Court agreed with WV Rivers, and allied organizations, and rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conclusion that the Mountain Valley Pipeline wouldn’t harm two aquatic endangered species, the candy darter, pictured, and the Roanoke logperch.

Once again this ruling demonstrates what environmental advocates have been saying all along – the Mountain Valley Pipeline and its consequences have not been adequately considered by permitting agencies. It’s a poorly conceived project and its environmental impacts can be disastrous.

Following the 4th Circuit Court’s decision, the Army Corps of Engineers indicated they would not make a decision on MVP’s stream crossing permit until a valid biological opinion is issued regarding endangered species impacts. This decision is yet another set back for the pipeline which is already $3 billion over budget and 4 years behind schedule.

Want to rep your love for the candy darter? Pick up you candy darter tees and stickers here. Your purchase goes directly towards supporting WV Rivers clean water mission!

West Virginia’s Morrissey Leads Lawsuit Against the EPA

On February 28, the Supreme Court will take up a case which could prevent the executive branch of the United States government from taking climate action – West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (WV v. EPA).

WV v. EPA challenges the authority of the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as it relates to climate change. West Virginia, and our Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, are lead plaintiffs, which is how the court case gets its name. The Supreme Court’s ruling will have serious implications for the future of climate action and environmental justice. A ruling that is favorable to petitioners could affect the future regulatory ability of the EPA. Read a blog post by our climate coordinator on the case here.

Meet Jenna Dodson, WV Rivers Staff Scientist

Join the WV Rivers staff and board in extending a warm welcome to our new staff scientist, Jenna Dodson. Jenna joined our team in January and brings with her a passion for connecting communities with their water resources.

Prior to joining the WV Rivers team Jenna served in the Peace Corps, and acted as the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream state coordinator. She holds a B.S. and a M.S. in Environmental Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Get to know Jenna in a personal blog post she wrote to introduce herself and her guiding values. And be sure to send her a welcome message!

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