WV Rivers News: Legislative Session Recap; We’re Hiring; Roadside Springs

Policy Update: Legislative Session Wrap-Up

WV Rivers executive director, Angie Rosser, center, with Lucia Valentine and Hannah King of the West Virginia Environmental Council.

The 2022 legislative session closed on Saturday, March 12. It was a busy 60 days for water advocates with multiple high profile bills making their way through the Legislature. WV Rivers, our allies, and grassroots advocates made sure legislators knew the truth about the policies before them.

Over the course of the session, WV Rivers provided 20 action alerts to help West Virginians make their voice heard. More than 26,000 comments were shared with legislators through the action alerts! These comments had a real impact on the outcomes of several bills.

We’ve summarized some of the highest profile bills and their results below. For our full analysis, go here.

Aboveground Storage Tank Rollback Bill HB 2598 – At the start of the session a bill was introduced to dramatically rollback the 2014 Aboveground Storage Tank Act. The bill was amended by the House of Delegates to preserve regulations under the ASTA, but it removed mandatory professional inspections of oil & gas tanks near drinking water intakes. Read our fact sheet. Thanks to your advocacy, Senators decided to table the bill and it died in committee! Cheers to the hundreds of advocates who stood up for clean water and defeated this bill!

Private Development in State Parks and Forests HB 4408– This bill, as introduced, would have made extensive changes to the scope of private development within state parks and forests. Read more. Advocates turned up the pressure and the Senate heavily amended the bill to address many of our concerns – including provisions to ensure public input is part of the decision-making process.

Water Quality Standards Revisions SB 279 – This bill advanced quickly through the Legislature and was signed into law in February by the Governor. Read our comments to WVDEP on the proposed rule. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of West Virginians, 30 toxins received more stringent pollution limits! But it’s not all good news, the final rule makes changes WV Rivers disagrees with. It allows increased amounts of 5 toxins and sets a new process for weakening limits on a case-by-case basis.

Funding for the Office of Oil & Gas SB 480 – The WVDEP Office of Oil & Gas is facing a budgetary crisis. Read our fact sheet. There are only 9 inspectors for 75,000 wells. We advocated for bills that would help address this problem. Two of our recommended funding bills advanced through committee, but neither passed the full Legislature. We will continue to press for a legislative solution and appeal to the Governor to take emergency measures to address the staffing crisis.

Creating a Mining Mutual Insurance Company SB 1 – The Legislature is beginning to acknowledge the state is at great risk in making sure mining reclamation liabilities are covered. However, SB 1 does not address the root of the structural problems that puts taxpayers potentially on the hook for coal companies that walk away from their reclamation responsibilities.

Instead, SB 1 puts $50 million (and potentially much more) of taxpayer money into a new private company set up to insure the highest risk coal companies. The bill passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk. We believe SB 1 is unwise policy; read our comments here.

Angie provides comments during a public hearing on SB 1. 

WVU is Researching Roadside Springs and They Need Your Help

Spring in Mingo County, WV. Photo: Curren Sheldon/100 Days in Appalachia.

Do you, or someone you know, use a roadside spring for water? A roadside spring is a spring commonly along a road that is used by the public for filling water containers. Dr. Dorothy Vesper, a professor of geology at West Virginia University, is hoping to learn more about roadside springs in West Virginia. To jumpstart this project, she is asking folks to share their knowledge of spring locations around the state. If you know of a spring and would like to share that information, please fill out this form.

The form offers the option to enter your contact information, or remain anonymous. Ultimately, Dr. Vesper hopes to determine the water quality of roadside springs around the state, and share that information with the public. If you know the location of a spring, we encourage you to fill out the form. If not, we encourage you to send this along to friends or family who may be able to help. Thanks for contributing to this important project!

A Shared Vision for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Clean water advocates meet with Emma Bryan and Katie Roberts, two of Senator Manchin’s staff members.

In early March, West Virginia Rivers connected water advocates with West Virginia’s members of Congress as part of a regional day of advocacy for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Many people don’t realize that the headwaters of the Bay’s two largest rivers, the Potomac and James, are located in West Virginia. That’s why as part of WV Rivers’ clean water mission, we serve as the state lead for the Choose Clean Water Coalition, a regional collective of partners working to improve water quality in the Bay watershed. Learn more about our work for a healthier Chesapeake Bay Watershed in a blog by staff scientist Jenna Dodson.

We’re Hiring an Ohio River Coordinator

Are you the next member of our team? The Ohio River Coordinator will help build a network of allies working for clean water and healthy communities along the Ohio River. The Coordinator will organize diverse partners to drive grassroots actions that advance clean water policy. Read the full description.

The ideal candidate will have an interest in and knack for advancing clean water priorities through collaboration with a variety of partners. Candidates must be highly organized and adaptable, able to work remotely, and enthusiastic about joining a small statewide advocacy organization in a pivotal period of growth. This is a remote working position. West Virginia residency is required and close proximity to Ohio River communities is a plus.

Know someone who would be a good fit? Share this announcement with them!

UPDATE: WV v. EPA the Supreme Court Case

Last month, we shared a blog post on a Supreme Court case that could prevent the executive branch of the United States government from taking climate action – West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (WV v. EPA). Read our updated blog following the oral arguments.

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